Wednesday, January 25, 2012

21st Century Skills: The Wave of the Future

21st century skills are no doubt the wave of the future.  The quicker teachers, administrators, politicians, parents, and all others involved in the education of our future generations latch on to the idea that technology is essential to learning today, the faster we as a society can move forward in the modern 21st century world in which we live.  After reading some of the ideas presented by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills organization, it is obvious change is coming to American schools.  In nine years of teaching I have observed several models and diagrams of how curriculum and assessment should work and the 21st century skill framework makes perfect sense.  The framework calls for schools to embed 21st century skills into coursework, curriculum, and assessment.  The framework also provides ways that schools and teachers are going to receive training and resources to support this transition for schools.  The one element of the website that surprised me is that you need to email them to have permission to use the framework and ideas placed on the website by the organization.  I would hope some day that all of this information would be made available to all educators and schools.

I also noticed a short list of states that have initiatives to use and apply this framework to their state education programs.  I was excited to see that my state, Iowa, was included on that list.  Iowa plans to overhaul state standards and curriculum to place 21st century skills at the top of their list through the implementation of the Iowa Core, which encourages financial, health, and technological literacy.  Overall, I really like this website and I agree with their mission to put 21st century skills at the center of education in the United States.  If students want to be successful in today's work environment they need to be well-versed in the new technology skills expected out of the working world today.

Here is a link to the proposed Iowa Core:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Potential of Blogs

The available technology that is available to students is unbelievable, and most of them know how to use it better than adults.  I teach high school Economics (grades 11-12) and I have recently started using a wiki page for my students as a platform for them to get course materials and have discussions about various topics that we study in class.  This has been a fantastic learning experience for me and I find that I am excited to discover what else can come from a wiki (I have posted the link to my Economics wiki below).  Even though I am just getting my feet wet with all of the new 1:1 type of classroom technology I am very excited for the potential it holds.  The big question this post addresses is "how can I use a blog in the classroom?"

I am very new to blogging but not to the fact that students must read and write to gain knowledge.  At first I thought I would use a class blog much like the wiki I mentioned before.  However, after much thought, I would love to attempt to use a class blog to connect with students and teachers across the nation and, perhaps, in other parts of the world.  The logistics of doing this could be complicated but think of the potential rewards.  My students would get to collaborate with other students across the nation about similar topics and experiences while potentially building strong relationships with each other.  All students would get different viewpoints on certain ideas and topics and this would broaden and extend their learning beyond what I could give them in the typical classroom.  Am I going to attempt this endeavor?  Absolutely.  Will it take time and research?  Yes.  Will I start tomorrow?  I cannot answer that for sure but what I can be certain of is that blogging absolutely has its place in the educational setting.  Whether a blog is used as a class or school home page or for a space for students to voice their opinions about certain ideas it remains one of those untapped technological resources that will be hitting a classroom near you!  How about everyone else?  How would you use blogging in the classroom (and even outside of the classroom).  Does my potential idea for a collaborative class blog sound feasible and valuable?  A penny for your thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Technology and Choices

Being an Economics teacher, I spend plenty of time thinking about the choices people make.  With the emergence of so many new and great technologies, people now have so many more choices available to them on a variety of activities.  I can pay my bills online, track the location of a shipment, watch a movie online, and even talk to friends across the globe.  These choices and opportunities were not available 10-15 years ago and had led to an increased amount of data that people must keep straight.
The big question is this:  What is technology doing to our ability to focus, make critical choices, and build relationships?  Some experts would say that children growing up in our world, including my own children, are so used to technology that their attention spans have lessened.  Others argue that technology has increased children's independence and has enhanced their ability to think on their own via learning toys such as the Leap Pad, MobiGo, and Tag.  My children have some of these toys and at a younger age it has prepared them to start their formal education.  My 6 year old and 3 year old both know more than I did when I was their age, much due to learning toys.  Technology can also help and hurt relationships.  Technology does enhance the ability to speak and collaborate with people across the globe but it can affect relationships at home.  If two kids are playing learning toys, dad is checking his email, and mom is reading her Kindle, where is the family time?  My point is this.  Technology is a fabulous tool if used properly.  It should be used with certain limitations, including both children and adults.  What does technology do for your life?  Has it created less face to face time with each other or is it just another way to meet more people and learn more?  What do you think?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Technology is grand

This is my first adventure into the blogging world.  I used to consider myself well versed in technology but have recently found myself behind the times with all the new and exciting opportunities available through so many networks and mediums.  My phone has no internet accessibility, no games, or special features where many people I know can see what is going on in another part of the world in less than a minute on a device I may have a hard time turning on.  Needless to say, I enjoy all the opportunities technology offers but I have a long way to go.  Has anyone else ever been in my shoes or is anyone currently in my shoes and "feel my pain"?  :-)