Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Partmership for 21st Century Skills - a Website

         When first looking at the home page of the site partnership for 21st Century skills I was overwhelmed by all that I saw. I felt, “I’ll never be able to work my through all of this information”. However, at closer look the tabs at the top of the page can lead you into the site where you will be able to read the posted information with a feeling of adequacy. I did not like that links to articles that were advertised on the home page went to sites that you had to join, with a fee. I do not think that paying a second site to read one article is fair, the partnership for 21st Century skills should not have links on the home page that force readers to pay a fee to complete the article.

            This site, the partnership for 21st Century skills, clearly lays out the framework by which they have developed the skills needed for the 21st century. According to the site, their framework begins with the core subjects that include No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Secondary Education Act of 1965 that spells out the core subjects. Interesting that the secondary education act was past 47 years ago and the core subjects have not been changed since. Next in the framework is the 21st century content that includes global awareness, financial, economic, business & entrepreneurial literacy, civil literary, health & wellness awareness, and environmental literacy. These content areas are not really stressed in many curriculums and perhaps they are not addressed in all 50 state standards.  The framework goes onto stress the learning and thinking skills that students need to be taught for them to be successful in the new business world; these include creativity and innovation skills, contextual learning, and information and Media literacy skills.  Information and communication technology (ICT) is “the ability to use technology to develop 21st century content knowledge and skills in support of 21st century teaching and learning” (Partnership for 21st century skills, 2011). The framework then goes into the life skills that are needed which include ethics and accountability, just to name a few listed. The framework ends with the type of assessments that should be implemented for 21st century skills. According to the site: “To be effective, sustainable and affordable, assessments must use modern technologies to increase efficiency and timeliness. Standardized tests alone can measure only a few of the important skills and knowledge students should learn. A balance of assessments, including high quality standardized testing, along with effective classroom assessments; offer students a powerful way to master the content and skills central to success” (Partnership for 21st century skills, 2011).

            When looking over the laundry list of skills that we must teach our students for the 21st century, the task is daunting. Some of these skills we have long taught while others should be the domain of parents and religious organizations. However, I can understand why we, the teachers, are the role models for a large majority of our students. I would like input from my colleagues. What do you think of these skills? How do we incorporate all of these skills into the classroom? Personally, schools would have to change. There can no longer be constant interruptions from senior trips, proms, dances, assemblies to test days. You cannot cover this amount of material from September until March when the big state tests are given, then cover more for May when the AP exams are given, covering more for early June when the End of Course state tests are given. Seriously?! Let us teach! Do not interrupt the classroom flow, there should be no state assessments in March, the state assessments should all be changed to End of Course exams that are given the first week in June. Giving assessments along these lines will enable teachers to cover large amounts of required skills and content in an uninterrupted fashion, keeping the flow moving, enabling students to get the scope and sequence of the course in preparation for one large test in June.

Works Cited

Partnership for 21st century skills. (2011). (Partnership for 21st century skills) Retrieved January 23, 2012, from

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I can open my current blog about history curriculum up to my students’ comments, but the truth is that a separate blog dealing with a topic they are learning about would be a better tool. I am in the middle of a unit on Enlightened Despotism, which leads into the French Revolutionary Period. Developing a blog about Napoleon, someone that the students are always interested in and are willing to research would be a more appropriate blog for my history class. I would love to set something up about the good Napoleon vs. the bad Napoleon.
When I was in Ireland a few years ago, Trinity College in Dublin was having a Napoleon exhibit. My son and I attended the exhibit, which was very prejudicial against Napoleon; my son did not understand why the Irish would be against Napoleon, since my son was correctly taught that the Irish backed Napoleon and would have loved to see the defeat of England. I explained that Elizabeth I founded Trinity College as a stronghold of Protestantism in Catholic Ireland, that her goal was to convert the heathens to Protestantism. The English Protestants were Napoleon’s greatest enemy, not the Catholic Irishmen. The exhibit was prejudicial because of the religious dissent at the back of all modern history. A blog based on the two views of Napoleon would be a great sounding board for the students, a good learning experience for both the students and me, and a tool for research and writing. 
I would set this blog up for my European History class, which is a 12th grade elective course. It will enable my European history students to share their findings, to discuss the different points of view and to make their research viewable to all instead of just me. As our text states: “Blogs engage readers with ideas and questions and links. They ask readers to think and to respond. They demand interaction.” (Richardson, 2010, p. 18). Blogging can become a good tool to help students think and write at a higher level, using more analysis and synthesis over a longer period time with reflection on what they have posted to the blog. (Richardson, 2010). The blog can be the tool that aids the students in their thesis development and overall writing. 

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (Third Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a Sage Company.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Organization of United States History Curriculum

Current discussions in the social studies department center on where my high school should begin to teach United States History.  In addition, we are discussing the placement of these courses, their starting period for 10th and 11th grades, US I and US II history.The state "end of course" exams are not yet  implemented so it is important to gather input from stakeholders including teachers, administrators, parents, students, and curriculum experts.
The implementation of technology into these newly redesigned courses also needs to be addressed. Will the community be supportive of changing each social studies classroom into a 21st century classroom? These classrooms will each have smart boards, laptops for each student, LCD projectors in the ceilings, among just a few of the technological advances needed to create interactive 21st century classrooms.