Guest post: 21st Century Skills a Must-Do in 21st Century Instruction

A guest post from Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum alumni Melanie Wiscount., who was the “Educator’s Choice” finalist at the 2011 US Forum. Part of an ongoing “occasional guest post series” hearing from educators who have experienced this unique professional learning forum, reflecting on their experiences and sharing practical tips for other educators. A sincere thank you to these contributors for taking time from their important day jobs to offer these thoughtful posts. mwiscount_profilepic1

Coming from twenty years in business as a general manager and my experience in higher education teaching as an adjunct and tenure track professor at a community college and PA state university respectively, I know all too well the value of having 21st century skills in one’s learning, performance and achievement.

One reason I changed my career ten years ago to education was my passion to develop 21st century skills in students. Our schools do a good job at teaching the core subjects, getting our students into good colleges, which in turn lead to great jobs, but in K-12 education, sometimes we are not taking the time to prepare students for their future “real world”; a world full of professors and supervisors with high expectations for high school and college graduates. Those high expectations can be expecting students and employees to be efficient time managers, sound team players, innovative thinkers, empathetic employees, inquisitive investigators, collaborative creators, effective communicators, creative designers and productive project completers.

With limited time and resources, 21st century development in our students has to happen inside instruction and assessment. Expectations need to be interwoven into the assignment tasks and rubrics. Additionally, before students can successfully exhibit 21st century skills, role-playing good teamwork, modeling effective project planning and demonstrating time management strategies, for example, need to be a part of the lesson and project preparation.

Furthermore, driving 21st century fluency is an important part of national educational initiatives across the globe. With our “flat world”, competition for countries’ economic and innovative success is top priority. But where should we start as educators? What 21st century skills should be taught?

Here are some excellent resources for looking at skills students should be strong in coming out of their K-12 education:

· 21st Century Digital Project – Ten Skills Every Student Should Learn

· P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

· The NETS Standards for Students developed by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education)

· ATCS (Assessment of Teaching of 21st Century Skills) – What are 21st Century Skills?

While understanding the importance of developing 21st century skills in our students, and bringing rigor and relevance into core subjects, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills developed a toolkit (free download) which aligns the Common Core Standards to the P21 framework. This resource provides districts and educators with a way to link academics with 21st century skill development in instruction and learning.

Other resources that may help educators infuse 21st century skill development into their instruction and assessment:

· Microsoft Partners in Learning Community – find free tools, tutorials, discussions and learning activities, and connect with over 4 million educators from 115 countries

· Microsoft IT Academy – Focus Your Curriculum on 21st Century Skills with certification opportunities

· The Gateway to 21st Century Skills

· 21 Activities for 21st Century Classroom

· Thinkfinity 21st Century Skills Lesson Plans

· Goochland County Public Schools (VA) Framework for Developing 21st Century Skills – a super real school example of matching academics with 21st century skills!DSC01900

To measure 21st century skills in our students, offers for a fee a 21st Century Skills Assessment which is aligned to both the P21 Framework and the ISTE NETS for Students.

Developing 21st century skills in students is proactive to preparing for a better tomorrow. Looking at the Logic Model (ITL Research), 21st century skill development in our students starts with innovative teaching practices.

If you are doing innovative teaching that raises expectations, knowledge and achievement for students, apply to the Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 U.S. Forum. Sharing with other educators across the nation what you and your students are doing in the classroom is key to transforming education at a larger scale. The blend of teaching academic content while developing 21st century skills in our students takes a special teacher. Are your students ready?

Be that special teacher!

Melanie Wiscount (@mwiscount)

Business/Computer Technology Educator, Palmyra Area High School, Palmyra, Pennsylvania

About the Author
Melanie Wiscount is a Microsoft Partners in Learning 2011 US Forum educator winner, a 2011 Siemens STEM Institute Fellow and a business/computer technology educator at the Palmyra Area High School in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. Melanie is also an educational technology doctoral candidate at Wilkes University, Wilkes Barre, PA beginning her dissertation in gesture-based learning according to learning styles using Kinect in the middle level STEM classroom. She trains teachers as an educational technology professional development designer and facilitator and has presented at international, national, state and regional conferences as well as delivered online webinars to teachers and administrators. Melanie was awarded the Educators’ Choice Award at the Microsoft Partners in Learning 2011 US Forum in Redmond, WA and represented the U.S. at the 2011 Global Forum in Washington, D.C. Pictured above at the Partners in Learning 2011 Global Forum with educator Rui Lima from Portugal.

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Comments (2)

  1. Naila Hasanova says:

    Thanks and good luck!

  2. Krissy Venosdale says:

    Great resources!  Thank you for sharing the amazing links!

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