Posts Tagged ‘21st century skills’

Future Ready Survival Skills

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

AUTHOR: Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Instructional Technology & Library Media Services

Are we meeting the mark when it comes to preparing students for success in their post-graduate lives?

Tony Wagner, Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, wondered the same thing. He conducted interviews with leaders in major global businesses, non-profits, and government institutions and discovered that students regularly fall short in seven specific skill areas that are essential for success in today’s innovation-centric economy. As you read through Wagner’s seven “survival” skills below, consider what practices you can implement or enhance in your classroom, campus, or district to help your students become future ready.

Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

According to Wagner’s definition, critical thinking is the ability to ask the right questions. Are we asking questions that require little more mental consideration than a Google search on a student’s smart phone? The use of Document Based Questions (DBQs ) in social studies and the Claim Evidence Reasoning (CER) framework in science are two ways to help students develop critical thinking skills in the context of content area instruction. When too many of our questions result in one right answer out of a possible 4 multiple choice options, we are missing opportunities to engage students in rich conversations in which they explain their thinking and justify their reasoning.

Collaboration & Leadership

In seeking solutions to problems, employees in the workforce will rarely work in isolation. They will be expected to collaborate with peers within organizational teams and access the input of a network of professional experts from across the globe. In contrast, the measure of success in our classrooms is based on the performance of the individual working alone. While we can’t always change our testing and grading structure, we can create opportunities for students to work in collaborative groups that are structured so that each member of the group is held accountable for his/her contribution. In addition, we can teach students how to safely access the input of experts using digital connections like social media and virtual conferencing.

Agility & Adaptability

We are living in a fast-paced and quickly changing time. Information, technology, and the problems organizations are working to solve are constantly changing. Employees need to be able to change alongside the demands of the job and adapt easily to new and evolving circumstances. Are we providing flexible learning environments that encourage students to identify and adapt elements that contribute to their maximum productivity? Are we creating opportunities for students to iterate; to observe and improve their own output? How often do we say to students, “Oh, that didn’t work. What other ideas do you have?”

Initiative & Entrepreneurism

An entrepreneurial spirit means harnessing opportunities and capitalizing on strengths to create products and services to fill needs. How often do we give students the freedom to think outside the box and provide innovative and creative ways to demonstrate their understanding of academic concepts? How often do we let them offer solutions to problems that may be occurring in the classroom, the school, the world? If we are always telling them what to do, how will they develop initiative and the ability to meet needs on their own?

Effective Oral & Written Communication

Through his research, Wagner discovered that students entering the workforce are severely deficient in their ability to speak and/or write. The problem is less about grammar and mechanics and more about students being unable to articulate their thinking in a logical manner with a compelling voice and persuasive argumentation. Reliance on the formulaic writing strategies traditionally used in classrooms restricts the critical thinking component that is necessary for effective communication. Do we let students write about topics they are passionate about? Are we giving them opportunities to write frequently in all subject areas? How often do we ask students deep questions and then give them sufficient “wait time” to develop and/or revise their oral responses? How often do we ask them to articulate the thinking behind their answers?

Accessing & Analyzing Information

Wagner says we have moved from a “knowledge economy” to an “innovation era”. When information is readily available 24 hours a day, the knowledge you possess is less valuable than what you are able to do with that knowledge. The true skill is being able to quickly access information and effectively analyze it for accuracy and relevance to the task. How often are we incorporating web-based texts in our instruction? Are we teaching students how to determine the reliability of the information they encounter online? Is research still only something we do during library time, or is it a part of regular instruction in all content areas?

Curiosity & Imagination

Innovation comes from curiosity and imagination. People who can ask the right questions and locate or iterate the answers to their questions are the people who are able to come up with unique products and services for a fast-paced world. How often do we encourage and allow students time to follow their curiosity and employ their imagination? Do we make time for Genius Hour during the school day? Have you thought about creating a Makerspace on campus for students?

By approaching our instructional practices with an awareness of these future ready survival skills we can look for opportunities to complement our traditional activities with new ideas for a new time.


Wagner, T. (2008). Rigor redefined. Educational Leadership, 66 (2). Retrieved from

The Global Read Aloud: Connecting Through a Love of Literature

Friday, September 25th, 2015

AUTHOR: Leslie Barrett, Education Specialist: Technology & Library Media Services

The Global Read Aloud is a project started by a Wisconsin teacher looking to create connections between her students and other students around the world through the love of literature and the power of a really good book. Over the past 5 years the Global Read Aloud (GRA) has grown from a small project that included a few hundred students and one book to an initiative that impacts over 500,000 students and includes an author study component and age specific title selections.

To participate a teacher would sign up via the Global Read Aloud website. The teacher chooses which title to read to his/her students, and can also choose a method to connect with other teachers/classrooms reading the same book. Teachers can connect via Edmodo, Facebook, and Twitter. Through these connections, teachers can set up video conferencing sessions between classes via Skype or Google Hangouts, or they may choose to post student work on the Global Read Aloud wiki.

This year’s Global Read Aloud officially runs from October 6, 2015 to November 16, 2015. There will be a schedule posted on the Global Read Aloud wiki to help teachers keep pace with the 6 week project and to prevent any unintentional spoilers. Teachers can read to their class daily during each week, or designate one day during each of the 6 weeks as a GRA day. While reading, teachers can incorporate higher level reading comprehension skills by asking students to make predictions about what may happen next in the story, analyzing character traits and motivation, and examining elements of author’s craft.

Here are a few examples of ways classrooms have participated in the Global Read Aloud in the past.

  • Check out this example from 2014 where students used the tool Padlet to share their initial predictions prior to reading each of the titles included in the Peter H. Reynolds author study.
  • While reading The One and Only Ivan during the 2012 GRA, Fifth Graders in Buenos Aires, Argentina were inspired to create protest signs that corresponded with the story and share them via the video creation tool Animoto.
  • Mrs. Moore’s 3rd grade class in Arizona shared their thinking about 2014’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane via their class blog.

If you are reading this article after the 2015 deadline for participation you can be thinking ahead to how you might like to participate in 2016, or you may consider how you could recreate this event at a local campus, district, or state level. Perhaps you have a colleague that teaches in another state or country who would be interested in collaborating with you on a smaller scale project. The main goal is to connect with other classrooms to share the joy of reading, but the real beauty of the Global Read Aloud lies in the natural integration of technology tools for communication, collaboration, and creativity into an engaging academic event that supports literacy. Students are able to connect digitally and share ideas, thinking, and interpretations with other students under the safe guidance of their teacher. It is also a wonderful way to begin (or continue) classroom conversations around the digital citizenship concepts of internet safety and curation of an appropriate and respectful digital presence.

Connected Learning — a Framework for Innovation in the Classroom

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Author: Jennifer Woollven, Education Specialist, Instructional Technology

There is a lot of talk in the world of education about 21st century skills and preparing our students for a new world — plenty of inspiring (and not so inspiring) 21st century videos can be found on Youtube. Online tools and platforms available to teachers can be transformative to the classroom experience, but they can also be overwhelming. How does a teacher keep up with everything that is available? Which tools will be best for our learning outcomes? I’ve certainly been guilty of being dazzled by the bells and whistles of a tool only to realize that underneath the glitter was the same old traditional approach that centers around the content or the instructor, but not the student. This is the shift we must make. Are students driving their learning experiences in your classrooms? Once this in place, the tools that will be most appropriate for helping students innovate, create, and problem solve will be apparent — in fact your students probably make those decisions on their own. (Let them! There is incredible power in allowing student voice and choice.)

So, as educators how do we get there? Constructivist learning theory centers on the learner and how he or she constructs meaning, but it does not address the connected, digital world that our students must live and thrive in. Connected Learning is the evolution of constructivism and seeks to address how we learn in a connected world. Connected learning theory as defined by the Digital Media and Learning Hub and the Connected Learning Alliance (CLA)…

is a model of learning that holds out the possibility of reimagining the experience of education in the information age. It draws on the power of today’s technology to fuse young people’s interests, friendships, and academic achievement through experiences laced with hands-on production, shared purpose, and open networks.

The six Connected Learning principles are production centered, interest driven, shared purpose, peer culture, openly networked, and academic. To find out more about each of the principles and to see examples of them in action visit