21st Century Literacies Gathering: Your thoughts

Many people have written about 21st Century Skills:  Doug Johnson, Diane Chen, Will Richardson, David Warlick, Kathy Schrock,  Steve Hargadon,  Chris Sessums,  and Wesley Fryer to name a few.

The Partnership for 21st Century skills is co-sponsoring, along with other groups, a gathering this week at U.C. Berkeley.  I will be attending as a representative from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).   You can see the agenda here for the Feb. 2nd gathering. 

For one part of the gathering, the attendees are dividing into discussion groups around these topics:  Teacher Education, Assessment, and Professional Development (not sure how these were chosen).  In the printable schedule it says that we are to: 

The goal of the session is to identify key actions that have been taken by schools, districts, businesses, policy makers, and other stakeholders to support 21st century literacies in the topic area being discussed. Conferees will prepare for discussion in two ways: (1) complete a pre-reading and (2) bring one specific example of an effective action that has resulted in support for 21st century literacies learning and/or in student learning of a 21st century literacy to use during discussion.

I’d like to ask you for your examples regarding:  assessment.  What is an assessment  example in a school or school system that supports 21st century learning?

Tomorrow, I’ll ask about the next area.  Thanks for your insights.

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7 Responses to “21st Century Literacies Gathering: Your thoughts”


  1. 1 David Warlick January 30, 2007 at 2:59 am

    Rob, I’m envious of this opportunity that you have, to bring your voice to this Gathering — and excited that it is happening and that people are starting to pay attention.

    This is probably something that you’ve all thought about and talked about already, but I think that I’ll state it anyway, that 21st century assessment is not simply assessing 21st century skills. I think that the assessment itself must be different.

    Assessment today tends to evaluate products, knowledge gained (multiple choice tests) and skills applied (writing and math tests). 21st century assessment should be just as concerned about process as product. When, so much of what we learn in this decade will be obsolete in the next decade (or the next three years), a student’s ability to learn, as a skill, is perhaps more important than what he or she has learned.

    That said, I think that our assessment practices should evaluate not only the facts and knowledge, but how the learner found them, what questions they asked and decisions they made, what they did with (and to) the information to add value, and how they chose to express what they found. It’s as much about decisions as about the fact.

    Well, that’s about 2¢ Worth!

  2. 2 MillerBHS January 30, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Rob, thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

    I agree with David that we, as educators, must alter the way we view assessment, and that the process is just as important as the product. In a school that supports 21st Century skills, assessment can – and should – look like many things. As the digital capabilities for creating, collaborating, and compiling explode all around us, it is becoming obvious that a core 21st Century skill is adapting. An appropriate assessment, then should look like students having freedom to showcase their learning in a variety of ways and to seek out the best tools in which to effectively present it. An appropriate assessment might require students to present their ideas in more than one format, with multiple perspectives. It probably should also require examination of the choices students make in presenting their learning. We need to ask students why they chose the tools they did and what did it add to their learning. For students to effectively have a variety of ways at their disposal, teachers in the school must also have the same freedom and support to allow it. I think that’s where the most difficulty lies: encouraging our fellow teachers to apply those same critical approaches to their methods as we should be doing of our students.

    I hope this was helpful to you. Good luck in San Francisco. I look forward to following your perspectives.

  3. 3 Nancy Bosch January 30, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    A thought…after 21 years of teaching gifted students, much of what David and MillerBHS said in their comments reminds of assessments we’ve used for evaluating products (and for that matter programs). The focus on process over product; the focus on critical thinking; questioning; and analysis and synthesis sounds familiar! Enjoy your conference and check out the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson, University of Virginia, for authentic assessment.

  4. 4 sylvia martinez January 30, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    Hi Rob,
    Finding examples of authentic assessment is a complex request because if it’s really authentic, it’s not just assessment. It’s integrated into the whole process of learning and teaching, since it should provide the learner with feedback that helps them learn — and it has to happen early and often enough to make a difference in the final outcome.

    I work for Generation YES, and we’ve worked with schools on this issue. We came up with a set of student materials to help students understand the project process, but not to tell them exactly what to do. We supply teachers with examples of the kind of conversation that might happen with a student that represents authentic assessment, and how to correlate this to standards without resorting to a checklist. A checklist encourages student work that recreates the expectations and limits of imagination of the list maker. Students can and should do more. We also provide ideas and training materials for peer mentors, which we believe provide a way to extend the capacity of a single teacher so that more technology can be explored and students can be having more conversations about what they are doing.

    If you are interested there is a longer description of the materials on our website: http://www.genyes.com/techyes

    I don’t want to make this into a commercial. Sorry if it sounds that way. We try to build materials that help turn theories of authentic assessment and project-based learning into practice. I like to think we are doing a good thing.

    There is an independent evaluation of our technology literacy program here: http://www.geny.org/verizon/evaluation/ and a summary (PDF) here: http://www.geny.org/verizon/evaluation/TechYES_Evaluation_Summary.pdf

    This study was done in 45 middle schools in California, very near your gathering. I’d be happy to send you the unedited comments from the students, peer mentors and teachers involved. I hope that the real stakeholders (the students) will be heard from at your meeting.

  5. 5 Patrick Faverty January 31, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Rob, Sometimes I think the most important discussion we could have is to agree on what “assessment” really means. Are we talking about quality of work, amount of work, method of working, how well the student completed the task required, or did the student do what was asked? Too often our struggle is on not agreeing on the words we use before we change the words we use! Assessment, evaluation, authentic, et. al…. do we all agree on what these words mean? 21st Century skills – do we agree on what they are? I am certain that we need to agree on definitions so that we can then focus our efforts on being more successful in schools. We educators are such good semantic learners and we use so many different words, it is hard to have common beliefs, goals, or objectives.
    For me, assessment is as much about the student’s reflective synthesis of their own learning as anything else. All learners control their own learning, so student assessment of their learning would be my assessment of my teaching.

  6. 6 robdarrow January 31, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    Sylvia – I’m familiar with genyes – I’ve heard Dennis Harper speak on different occasions. You guys do great work!


  1. 1 2 Cents Worth » Your Thoughts for Rob! Trackback on January 30, 2007 at 3:29 am

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