Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Partnership for 21st Centruy Skills Website Review

             My initial reaction to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills was one of relief that there really was a written comprehensive plan to address the essential skills students will have to be able to understand do for the 21st century.  In a collaborative effort, this partnership of educators, business, community, and government leaders proactively seek to close the gap between what students learn at school and what they need to know to meet the needs of the globally competitive workforce. 
            The organization of this website was comprehensive but sometimes difficult to navigate.   The tabs were explicit and content specific.  The route 21 page provided resources related to 21st century skills.  The reader is able to browse by support system, by skill or by knowledge.  Detailed information relating to standards, assessment, professional development, curriculum and instruction is easily accessible.  Links were available in all areas on all pages.  The website was comprehensive including a mission statement and explanation, desired learning outcomes, assessment tools, individual state reports on progress toward their goals, and professional development   Navigating from one page to another was challenging at times.  I was also disappointed that when trying to access the videos some did not work.
The symbolic rainbow framework on the overview tab appropriately interconnects all of the outcomes and support systems necessary to ensure 21century readiness for today’s students.  Required outcomes include the core subjects of 21st century themes, learning and innovation skills, information, media and technology skills and life and career skills.  In the article Learning for the 21st Century (nd., p4), essential learning skills were similarly listed, but on this website under the overview tab I was able to gain a better understanding of the meaning of Life and Career Skills
According to the website, the essential interpersonal attributes required by today’s work and life environments include adaptability and flexibility, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability and leadership and responsibility.  These skills represent the personal attributes that allow individuals to navigate the life and work environments in the competitive information age.  Reflecting on my teaching practices, I now recognize the necessity to directly teach life and career skills.  It will be up to me to research and create lessons that will foster this learning.
            When investigating the state initiatives, on the website, I noticed the absence of California.  My biggest disappointment is that the site does not address states that ignore the need to teach 21st century skills.  In my district, although we have recently received some smart boards, there is no initiative to revamp our teaching.  Teachers have received minimal instruction on how to use the new equipment, and as a result do not use it to develop 21st century learning skills.  Professional development to teach the new literacies, as described by Miners and Pacopella (2007), does not appear to be on the horizon at my school.  Instead foundational literacy continues to be the standard.  As a result of my districts failure to embrace 21st century learning skills, it is my responsibility to independently make the transition.  I will self-initiate changes in my assessment practices, instructional delivery, and my use of technology to foster 21st century learning (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, n.d., p4).  Utilizing real world contexts and infusing them into classroom learning will demonstrate respect for students’ intellect as well as prepare them to be successful contributors to the workplace of tomorrow.

Miners, Z., & Pascopella, A. (2007). The new literacies. District Administration, 43(10), 26–34

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (n.d.). A report and mile guide for 21st century skills. Washington DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=254&Itemid=119

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (n.d.). A report and mile guide for 21st century skills. Washington DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/images/stories/otherdocs/p21up_Report.pdf

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2007). 21st century curriculum and instruction. Washington DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/route21/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=13&Itemid=228&limitstart=1

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blogging to Persuade

      California State writing standard 2.3 requires sixth grade students to write a persuasive composition.  They are to support their position with organized and relevant evidence, and anticipate and address reader concerns and counterarguments (California State Teaching Standards).  Having struggled to teach this standard to my special education students in the past, I am excited about the prospect of using a Weblog to teach this standard and simultaneously practice my own blogging skills.  In my recent research about blogs, I learned that that the best way to understand the impact of the Read/Write web and become proficient at using it, is to become a blogger and blog consistently (Richardson, 2010).
      Students with learning disabilities have processing challenges that impede their ability to make sense of what they learn.  Whether it is visual, auditory, or the integration and organization of information, their road blocks often contribute to their inattentiveness, poor self image and frustration.  Special education teachers are constantly looking for ways to keep them engaged with learning despite their struggles.
      I would use a class blog, “See It My Way”, to have students demonstrate their understanding of how to write a persuasive essay.  While introducing the blog and teaching content appropriateness, students will respond to self generated prompts of personal interest.  As they refine their skills, prompts will be grade level cross curricular topics and students will be required to use the websites and blogs to provide research based content. 
      The purpose of this blog is dual fold:   to showcase their understanding of persuasive writing and to allow them to mirror the business model in which construction of content and collaboration are the norm.   In addition, having students write to an audience much larger than their classroom enhances the relevance of what they write.  The knowledge that a worldwide audience will read and respond to what they write provides them the motivation to put forth their best efforts (Richardson, 2010).  Furthermore, special education students are notorious for having preferred learning styles, that when used, contribute to their success.  Students reticent to make oral presentations, blossom in the blog environment where everyone shares their ideas in writing.  Inherent in authoring and posting to blogs is the requirement to think deeply and critically about what is written.  
     Although my students struggle to write a persuasive essay through the traditional reading/writing programs, research has shown that students who engage in Weblogs show more interest in the work and their ability to locate and reflect on their work.  This new understanding serves as a catalyst for me along with my students to step into the blogging world to prepare for the literacies required to be successful in the information society of tomorrow (Richardson, 2010).

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Technology: Teaching unique learners to learn differently

Welcome to tech talk, a place where we can engage in conversation about how to best serve our special education students using technology.  As special educators we know our students don’t learn in the conventional way.  We are forever looking for ways to do different things and to do things differently to inspire our students and make them want to learn. I am excited about having the opportunity to share ideas on how to use technology to reach those students who have processing, attention, and behavior issues that impede their learning.   My experience (albeit limited) in using technology with my students has been one of wonderment.  The interactive programs that incorporate a multi-modality approach engage even the most distractible and oppositional learners.  I look forward to sharing ideas with my readers on how to use all forms of technology to help us in our quest to meet grade level standards and prepare our students for the 21st century.