Calendar Check: 21st Century

21st Century ReadinessUntil Race To The Top came along, there was a growing consensus that we needed to turn the orientation of education away from the adults’ past and toward the students’ future. Most of these efforts went under the umbrella of “21st Century Skills.” It seems like Race To The Top has pushed 21st Century Readiness off to the side. Not true at all! In fact, 21st Century Readiness is codified in the NYS Teaching Standards.
Very plainly, highly effective teachers attend to 21st Century Skills and preparing students for their future. Just look at NYS Teaching Standards 3.5. The NYS Teaching Standards are things all teachers in the state should be doing and 21st Century Readiness is in there! In addition to being included in the Teaching Standards, preparing students for their future is the right thing to do!

The fact that our world is changing at an ever-accelerating rate is probably self-evident, however it has been detailed in a great number of places. Books such as The World is Flat (Friedman, 2005) have done a great deal to describe a world that is unlike any we have known in our past. In The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner described the changing world and the subsequent educational deficiencies in dramatic fashion (2008). The history of educational “catch-up” is efficiently chronicled by Trilling & Fadel (2009). These accounts, and many others, basically tell us that our students need a new set of skills in order to be successful in a different and constantly evolving future. It seems that a consensus is now emerging as to what our students need for success in the future: 21st Century Skills.

There are some misconceptions about 21st Century Skills. From experience, many under-informed people seem to think that 21st Century Skills are all about technology. This is not true; technology is just a small part of 21st Century Skills. In fact, Ken Kay, President of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, recently issued this tweet: “One of the biggest misunderstandings is those who equate technology with 21st century skills (personal communication, 2010):’ It’s tempting to paint 21st Century Skills with the technology brush. After all, technology and Web 2.0 are altering our landscape at breath-taking speed. It’s hard to keep up with all that is changing. Yet, technology is just a small part of the story.

Other misconceptions are that 21st Century Skills are new things that high-tech companies are forcing on us (Sawchuk, 2009), or that the liberal and classical western education that made our country great will be lost in the haste to make way for 21st Century Skills (Ravitch, 2009). Yes, 21st Century Skills are many of the same skills we have desired for our students for generations and generations, but that doesn’t make them less important in the 21st Century.

So, 21st Century Readiness is important for our students and it is important for our teachers… now. Not later, after we’ve implemented Race To The Top and the Regents Reform Agenda. 21st Century Readiness is Race To The Top and is the Regents Reform Agenda. When you hear “College and Career Readiness,” think 21st Century Readiness. Think 4Cs:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity and problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking

Want to learn more? Start here, at our 21st Century Readiness resource page from the OCM BOCES Network Team. Don’t wait. Do it now. The 21st Century is here.

Craig,-Jeff_WEBJeff Craig
Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Support Services

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