Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts on the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Our assignment this week was to review the website: Partnership for 21st Century Skills. It was an eye-opening experience. In a course on web technology, it is easy to get caught up in the need...or desire...for our students to have access to Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts. In particular, it was the explanation of the framework for learning in the 21st century that turned on the light bulb! It suddenly dawned on me that the skills that our students need to succeed in the 21st century have nothing to do with blogging, texting, podcasting, networking, or creating electronic presentations. They are the same skills that I address in my personal mission statement:

It is my responsibility to help my students become independent thinkers and responsible, ethical citizens of their school, community, and world. I will provide them the opportunity to develop the skills they need to be successful in school and in life. I will model a love of learning, respect for differing opinions, compassion for others, and a desire to make the world a better place for those who come after me.

If I gained nothing else from the website, that would have been enough. I did find it interesting, but not surprising, that South Carolina is not listed under State Initiatives. However, I was surprised when I saw the list of Board members. Fortune 100 companies are members of this partnership and, until this assignment, I had never heard of it. The surprise was a pleasant one, though, as I am grateful for their participation in advocating the importance of ensuring our students become "effective citizens, workers, and leaders in the 21st century" (FAQ: What is the Partnership?).

Tomorrow, I will be accompanying my eighth grade students on a field trip to two local colleges: a two-year technical college and a four-year university. In preparation for this trip, we watched some videos on "21st century careers" that I found through a school resource. So many of the 'typical' careers in which my students are interested have changed drastically in recent years. As a Math teacher, I was happy that the importance of a good background in mathematics was stressed for jobs such as automotive mechanics. Most of my students who are not planning to attend college think that they can just walk into a decent job because they know how to work on cars. The videos addressed the competition that exists for such jobs and the fact that formally-trained candidates are more likely to be hired. I don't know if the students were happy to hear this, but they certainly needed to hear it!

After this trip, we will discuss their questions and observations about the schools we visited. As part of the discussion, I will show them this website and guide their conversations towards what they really need to accomplish their goals. By making them more aware of how the world has changed since their parents were in high school, I hope they see the importance of "preparing for the game". As the saying goes: The only constant is change!


  1. It is great that you are taking your students to local colleges. This can be a great way to not only motivate the students to go to college, but also to help bridge the gap between high school and college. This can give students some ideas about what college life is like.
    At least your state was listed on the site. My state was not listed. I was very interested to see what my state had listed as their goals, but unfortunately it was not listed. I would love to hear how your field trip goes. I hope you will post a follow up to the field trip.

  2. I wish I could tell you about the field trip. As sometimes happens, I was informed by my principal on the morning of the trip that he was sending someone else. I was not happy with his decision and I was unable to change his mind. I am finding that schools are not much different from the corporate world. Management (administration) makes decisions that are not always logical!

  3. Reading the same website, I was struck by the ideas that students needed not only the technology skills, but also a basic knowledge of core academics to obtain and keep 21st century jobs. Your tying your academic subject area to the students desire for a certain career and helping them see the connection is a great step toward preparing them for their future jobs.

  4. Our 8th grade also went on a future job training field trip this month. I actually posted about it on my blog briefly. The 8th grade Language Arts teacher had the students complete an online aptitude test which in turn gave them their top 100, 50 and 10 best jobs. From that list, these same students chose a job and piled on a bus to go to the public library to research the job. All I could think was the discrepancy in it all. What a great opportunity to get them using technology and seeing the skills they would need for the future. Using the online aptitude test was great, but they finished by using the same old field trip they have taken for years to the public library. I think the trip to the university was brilliant. The college level is the next logical step in researching future jobs. Students can see first-hand what education is needed to get that high paying job they want. Like you said, knowing how to work on a car is not enough anymore. Industry leaders from the nearby manufacturing plant to the car dealership to the cosmetologist could have then come to the classroom to talk to students all before the trip to the library. It is that real-world connection that makes so much more of an impact and it brings in a little reality too.

    I didn’t like this web site much at first, but after reading everyone’s blogs and the ideas that have been generated in my own head by the conversations; I’m seeing its value in a different light. Maybe it isn’t all about getting every state involved and putting the technology in our hands, although that would be nice and make the transition to a 2t century workforce more manageable. Maybe it is getting the conversation started so we can move forward and make a difference as best we can so when the shift does happen, we’re already prepared.


  5. I love the fact that you take your eighth graders on college visits. This is something that I wish more middle schools would do. A number of my high school students have never visited even their local community colleges until I take them on our college road trip their junior and senior years. As you mentioned, the careers have drastically changed so much in the last few years that the students need as much exposure as possible. I believe that we also need to inform the parents and provide them with as much information as possible with these 21st century skills. Most times the parents are not aware of these skills and ever changing career choices. Good luck with your trip! I hope that all goes well.

  6. I am working on some lessons for some grade nines in career education in Canada. Could you please let me know what the name of the video you showed. Also if you know of any good podcast or videocasts appropriate to show in class. We do need the engage the students and keep them interested in planning their futures.