Posts Tagged With: message to parents

Keeping Parents in the Educational Transformation Loop

As we continue to transform education we can’t forget to engage our parents, who are digital immigrants having come from the industrial age of education. The transformational conversation must include them as well.  I have heard of some schools hosting technology evenings for parents.  That’s a great idea. Here’s my February message to parents for our school newsletter: 

After 21 years as a teacher and administrator there has never been more to consider. How we educate children appears to be at a “tipping point”, where a focus on appropriate skill building has become extremely important. Researchers around the world have identified the need for competencies to be more central in the education of young people if they are to be active participants in society. Competencies enable students to understand their world, engage fully in their education, relate well to others, manage their lives wisely, and contribute positively to their communities.

 Many people ask why we need a different model of education for the 21st century.  Aren’t many of the skills we are talking about the ones that have been important throughout history? And do we, only 12 years into the century, really know what skills our students will need for their future? The answer to these questions is that the past few years have seen a very different world than before, especially in the area of globalization, which has been encouraged by advances in technology. We have moved from the industrial age to the service age and students who are now entering our schools will end up in the service sector, having jobs in many different fields over the course of their working lives.  While we don’t know what new jobs will emerge, these students will need to be able to learn new things and adapt to new situations as the world continues to change.  They will need to be innovative and creative and will need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.

The big difference between 21st century education and education that went before it is the embedding of these skills into the curriculum.  A few short years ago we didn’t do much problem solving or decision making.  Those skills weren’t seen as important because when we left school we went to work where we were told what to do – and if we had a problem or if a decision had to be made we were expected to take that to someone higher up rather than make it ourselves.  In today’s world there is more scope for autonomy and decision making at every level – we are all expected to be self-directed and responsible for our own work and autonomy, mastery and purpose are the factors that lead to more personal satisfaction with our work and therefore to more motivation and ultimately a better performance.

The 21st century competencies depicted above are not ones that were covered in yesterday’s schools. Academic rigor was defined by the “3 R’s” and the coverage of a large amount of content – and knowing this content was more important than understanding it.  Today content is not so important, as information is changing constantly, so today’s students need the competencies to be able to apply previous experience to new situations and they need the ability to be lifelong learners because they will need to keep learning as the situations they find themselves in change.

Today, schools (and teachers) need to be engaging students in more inquiry and project-based learning. They need to be encouraging students to develop higher-order thinking skills.  They need to be guiding students as they direct their own learning.

Without a doubt technology can be used effectively to promote the building of 21st Century competencies. But just putting an interactive whiteboard into a classroom or giving a student a laptop is not automatically going to bring about the changes in learning that we so obviously need. We need to rethink how students learn and we need to rethink what they are learning.  By ensuring that 21st Century competencies are embedded into all curriculum areas, all teaching, all assessments, and into the professional development teachers receive, our children will have the best chance to be prepared for the society they will enter as adults a few years downs the road.

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