21st Century Schools

If you read anything about education and technology, you will hear the term 21st century skills.  21st century schools are being built.  Classrooms are being fitted with 21st century tools. But what does it really mean?

I recently found a great site by Apple called Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow-Today, or ACOT2.  The site outlines what they believe to be the 6 design principals of the 21st century high schools and the answer is not just technology.


1. Understanding of 21st Century Skills and Outcomes.  A survey of business leaders came up with a list of most desirable skills; including, work ethic, collaboration, social responsibility, and critical thinking.  There is nothing ground breaking about this list.  These traits are timeless.  The survey also cited creativity and innovation as being increasingly important.  Again, these are timeless and I am confused by using the word increasingly.   Innovation, or yankee ingenuity, is as american as baseball and apple pie.  Apple doesn’t paint the picture of 21st century skills until you click the button to show more about 21st century skills.   A link to The Partnership for 21st Century Skills breaks the skills down to Core Subjects; Learning and Innovation Skills; Information, Media and Technology Skills; and Life and Career Skills.

Nailing 21st century skills down is tough.  Here is my best attempt at a definition that I could post on twitter.

The ability to find, evaluate, organize, and  share information and apply information to collaboratively solve problems.

2. Relevant and Applied Curriculum.  Curriculum is becoming less of WHAT content is taught and more of HOW the content is taught.  Apple gives six key characteristics of curriculum for 21st Century Learning
1. Involves collaboration and community
2. Based on authenticity and relevance
3. Leverages real-world tools, resources, and methodologies
4. Incorporates a rich continuum of teacher and learning strategies
5. Grounded in rich content with a 21st century context
6. Creates linkages to the outside world

3. Informative Assessment.  Taking a chapter test and getting a percentage grade was normal for me in school and even while I taught.  It always signified the end of learning that particular topic.  Informative assessment moves to make frequent assessments in order to ensure quality learning is taking place and the desired outcome is met. Similar to using a GPS in a car.  Informative assessment can be made by students, teams of students, teachers, and the entire world.

4. Culture of Innovation and Creativity.
  You can’t teach innovation and creativity.  Schools must create a culture that embraces creativity for students and teachers.

5. Social and Emotion Connections with Students.
  Textbooks don’t motivate students.  Meaningful relationships with other students, teachers, and adults have a great impact on learning.  Schools have to be a community and care about each student and believe every student has something to contribute.

6. Ubiquitous Access to Technology.  Schools must allow students to use the tools needed to get the job done.  Once a year I get annoyed at the North Carolina Writing Test.  They now allow the students to use a computer, but forbids the use of  spell check, a dictionary, or a thesaurus.  All tools that writers, professional  and amateur, use everyday.

Also posted on ITSThinkTank.


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One Comment;

  1. Jeremy said:

    I enjoyed reading your post about creating 21st Century Schools. I recently attended a workshop hosted by Apple which showed educators how to incorporate technology into classrooms. As an educator it is important for us to learn and keep up to date with the technology that is available for students to use. We must understand the way the technology is set up and be able to incorporate some of the beneficial technology in our classrooms. Technology is a tool that has been created and improved and we must take advantage of that. It is very important for us to find ways to connect with our students to help make learning meaningful and relevant. Teaching in North Carolina, I understand your frustration with the writing test. Our district is stuck with 4 per year. 2 content specific and 2 on demand. They are allowed to use any tools necessary for the content, but as you said, none for the on demand. This seems pointless for the students. They have access to spell check and grammar check whenever they type anything on a computer anymore. Why prohibit that? You have given me some great ideas to think about and some good points to share with my fellow teachers who see no benefit in using technology.

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