Monday, January 23, 2012

21st Century Skills

I spent quite a bit of time this evening exploring the website belonging to the organization The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. I was reminded of my district's Student Profile, which describes many of these same skills.

I also made connections to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), although their work focuses on specific sequenced learning goals rather than overarching skills. 

Overall I found the website interesting and was able to answer many of my own questions using the resources available. I do not disagree with the ideas presented, rather I found myself wanting to focus on how to better implement the teaching of these skills into my classroom. I would like to highlight a few of the resources I found particularly interesting:

  • Framework for 21st Century Learning --"When a school or district builds on this foundation, combining the entire Framework with the necessary support systems—standards, assessments, curriculum and instruction, professional development and learning environments—students are more engaged in the learning process and graduate better prepared to thrive in today’s global economy." 
    • This document provides a succinct overview of the goals and mission of this movement. I particularly liked the explanation quoted here because it describes the way these skills are meant to be used in combination with support systems already in place. 
  • Assessment of 21st Century Skills --"Most K-12 assessments in widespread use today—whether they be of 21st century skills and content or of traditional core subject areas—measure a student’s knowledge of discrete facts, not a student’s ability to apply knowledge in complex situations. High stakes assessments alone do not generate evidence of the skill sets that the business and education communities believe will ensure success in the 21st century." 
    • Whenever I plan lessons, I use the method outlined in Understanding by Designwhich requires beginning with the end in mind. Therefore after reading more about the skills themselves I wanted to find out what the skills would look like and how we could assess them. One particular example that I feel I could implement in my own classroom without help from outside resources is the example from Coventry high school in Rhode Island, where students post online portfolios "demonstrating not only their mastery of a content area, but how they mastered it". I love this idea! Has anyone seen or tried something like this before? 
  • 21st Century Skills Science Map -- "This document is neither a set of standards nor a comprehensive sequence of activities, but rather a starting point for ideas and discussions that begin with current practice and look forward." 
    • There are maps for many curricular areas, but I chose to focus on science since that is what I love and teach. I was pleased to see that this was designed in cooperation with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). This document provides a description of each skill along with outcomes and examples for various grade levels. This reminded me again of the Benchmarks I mentioned earlier. This is something that would be helpful to keep with my planning materials as an easy reference. I highly recommend checking out the map for your content area! 

Overall I feel excited about what I have gathered and learned from this website. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these and other resources you discover while exploring. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chain Notes

Have you read this book? It is full of awesome techniques to measure student learning.

One of the activities in the book is called "Chain Notes", and would work well for a discussion board and maybe even a blog. Normally this activity starts with a question written at the top of a piece of paper, such as "What is matter?". The paper is passed around and each student adds one or two sentences to the list; adding a new thought or building on previous statements.
This could easily be adapted to a discussion board or blog. As the teacher you can pose a question, and every student can add a comment that expands on the answer. Students may also correct any false information. This would be a good way to review a concept at the end of a unit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Idea for incorporating "real world" science

One way I would like to use a blog in my classroom is to post about and discuss current events in science. Classroom time is mostly spent doing lab investigations and it can be hard to find time to tie in connections to what's happening right now in the world of science. A blog would be a perfect venue for students to locate, research, and post about topics. Students can then respond to these posts with questions, comments, or connections to the classroom. 

How this could work: A different student in each class period is in charge of posting about a current event in science each week. I teach six class periods, so this would mean there would be six new postings each week. Every student would be required to comment on one post each week, so the 170 resulting comments would be spread out across the six posts. 

What do you think? Could this work? Have you tried anything similar?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


As part of my masters program, I get to blog. I have been blogging for a few years about daily life, so I could not be happier about using this particular format for educational purposes. I am trying hard to limit my use of exclamation points, and I already used up my quota in the title of this post...

This blog will be dedicated to three things: science, technology and education. I am excited to document my journey into exploring new ways to use technology in my classroom.