21st century literacies conference wrap up

From the lense of a school librarian and as a member of the American Association of School Librarians, I attended the Friday gathering of attendees to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills conference was jam packed with input.  The day was spent meeting in different groups and brainstorming ways to implement the 21c skills.  The first groups focused on assessment, teacher education and professional development.  The second groups forcused on content areas: social studies/geography, English/reading, math, and science.  At the end of the day, each group reported out their recommendations.  There were great ideas generated and I look forward to reading the posted results, because it was a challenge to capture all that happened. 

I attended the assessment group with about 25 people from all disciplines.  In the large group, three people shared ideas about assessment.  Then, there was considerable conversation about the difference between formative and summative assessment.  Generally, we agreed that the focus nationally is on summative assessment (standardized tests, etc.) and that there needs to be more emphasis on formative assessment or the learning that occurs along the way as well as reflective evaluation by students.   Then we broke into groups of three.  My group included John from the National Science Teachers Association and Michael Day, an English professor from Northern Illinois University.  It was in this small group that I shared the assessment ideas you had shared with me.  Unfortunately, the ideas shared in the small groups were not captured because we could only share one idea back the whole group.  Our small group shared back the idea that we should ask all stakeholders – parents, students and teachers – what assessment is important.  Overall, our group agreed that the use of portfolios was one of the best ways to measure formative assessment and use of the 21c skills.  It was shared that some statewide assessment via portfolios was occurring in Rhode Island.  Their Portfolio Toolkit looks pretty good and can be a model for other states. 

Next, it was time for the subject content groups.  I attended the social studies group.  There were about 20 people in the room representing interests in social studies and geography.  Leaders of the group came from the NCSS and the NCGE.  We discussed current and future social studies practices and the integration of 21c skills.  One person suggested that the integration of these skills would occur more easily with K-8 teachers rather than high school.  Ken Kay, President of the 21st c skills partnership responded:  “The idea that 21c skills can be used at any grade level is unassailable.  However, suggesting that integrating these skills with high school teachers is unacceptable.”  He went on to talk about the “silo-ing” that occurs in high school vs. K-8 and how 21c skills cross all subject areas.  We must identify strategies by which these skills can be utililized at all grade levels in all subjects.   Milton Chen, from the Lucas Foundation, suggested that there needs to be a total re-design of schools for 21c skills to move forward.  Tim Magner from the US Dept of Ed Office of Ed Tech talked about the importance of identifying what 21c classrooms or assessment or social studies teaching looks like – we need to start with the end in mind and give examples of how 21c learning looks.   This comment was met with many head nods and affirmations and.   Chen later stated that the Lucas Foundation and Edutopia would help to put together some short videos that would show examples of 21c classrooms, teachers, assessments, etc.  Joe O’Brien from the University of Kansas suggested we needed a “YouTube for Teachers.”  (So, if this ever comes to pass, you’ll know the idea started at this meeting). 

The conference ended with Patrick Gaston from Verizon Foundation (one of the sponsors of the conference) discussing the importance of needing an educated work force and the importance of redefning learning and literacy in the 21c.  He stated that there are 34 million adults in the U.S. who do not have the skills to fill out a job application.  Verizon is also involved with reshaping and re-energizing professional development for K-12 teachers and students with the morphing of Marco Polo into Thinkfinity.

Final Comments:  Overall, it was a great day of thinking and sharing ideas.  And, there were recorders that took video and typed what occurred.  Unfortunately, aside from this blog, this information has not yet been placed online.  Future 21c gatherings should get the shared information online within 24 hours and should include others who may not be able to attend in person.  Seems like if we are talking about the integration of 21c skills, that we should be modeling how 21c technologies (Web 2.0 tools) can be utilized for a conference such as this.   Now, the real test is how the ideas shared at the conference are now moved forward with decision and policy makers.  All 150 or so attendees shared the common vision that 21c skills need to be integrated into K-12 education.  The challenge for the conference leaders is what they will do with all the ideas that were shared – time will tell. 

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