I work with principals and superintendents (and other district leadership) around our state (NC) to integrate a leadership for innovation approach called GO LIVE! which is an acronym for Getting Organized to Lead Innovation for Virtual Education, an approach dedicated to creating leading and learning blended models. One of the main tenets of this initiative is to build the capacity of district and school leaders to lead innovatively, to further our state's 21st century learning goals, to engage in purposeful and meaningful conversations about what 21st century learning and leadership is and is not, and to implement strategies to ensure leaders meet NETS-A and our state executive standards.
I often ponder the depth of leadership understanding of the 21st century skills framework, its relevance to closing achievement gaps, and creating schools that are not only blended, but creating an environment that supports global awareness and virtual options for students. Principals and other district leaders need new paradigms, new ways of thinking about schooling and reaching Generation Z, those digital natives "born into a world of ubiquitous , digital technology, multi-media and gadgets" (Schrum and Levin, Leading 21st Century Schools 33). At the risk of minimizing the skill, patience, vision--in short leadership--this involves, it is absolutely necessary that district and school leadership fully understand the 21st Century Skills Framework; this is not the single and only means to an end, but it is a step in the right direction.
I started perusing Slideshare for some great presentation resources on this subject. It was interesting to note that as I conducted a search on 21st century skills, most resources that came up in my search were 2-4 years old (with the exception of a few posts within last few days like this presentation on the Hybrid Classroom and Changing Paradigms). I thought: "Certainly this topic is still timely?" I know there are a lot of great blog posts, tweets, mashups out there on 21st century skills, but I was striking out on current presentations in Slideshare. So, it really challenged me that this subject must remain timely and relevant to district and school leadership. This is not just the work of teachers and students. Leaders at various levels need to understand their role and place in creating, maintaining, and encouraging a transformative 21st century culture.
The National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) presents a 21st century model for learning, illustrated by the figure below:
Goal 1 of NETP 2010 states "All learners will have engaging and empowering learning experiences both in and outside of school that prepare them to be active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally networked society." The writers provide this statement in the first section entitled, "Learning: A Model for 21st Century Learning":
The challenge for our education system is to leverage technology to create relevant learning experiences that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures. We live in a highly mobile, globally connected society in which young Americans will have more jobs and more careers in their lifetimes than their parents. Learning can no longer be confined to the years we spend in school or the hours we spend in the classroom: It must be life-long, life-wide, and available on demand (Bransford et al., 2006).
NETP 2010 and the 21st Century Framework are mirror images of one another: they both are models for effective learning and create a picture of what 21st century looks like, they both present a common core of standards and assessment practices, they both agree that learning is not a one size fits all approach, and they both drive leaders to developing opportunities for learners to use 21st century tooling to promote media, digital, and information literacy and engage learners in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and problem solving activities.
What do district and school leaders need to know about 21st century learning? They need to know how to "empower learning experiences," how to prepare learners to be "active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants," they need to model these characteristics themselves, they need to know what "globally networked society" means and looks like, they need to know how to leverage technology, they need to create "relevant learning experiences" for both teachers and students, and they need to inspire life-long learners and continue to be one themselves.
How will district and school leaders learn and promote 21st century learning? By learning and leading themselves--in short, playing in the sandbox, getting dirty, making a mess, cleaning it up, inviting others to play along (nicely of course), It is essential to model and demonstrate consistent and purposeful 21st century conversations. What does that look like?
- Conduct the following activity with leadership cabinet, school improvement team, grade levels, departments, etc. This activity is taken from Schrum and Levin, Leading 21st Century Schools 25: A. Make a list of the ways technology is used in your school (or district) today, B. Consider instructional and administrative uses first, C. Classify whether these uses are collaborative, creative, or entrepreneurial, and D. Classify whether they require problem solving, critical thinking, communication, or innovation. Post these. Add to them. Create a visual board that captures this framework in action across departments and grade levels and divisions. Examine what is working and what is not.
- Create a definition of 21st century Learning, what a 21st century learner looks like and what it means to be literate in the 21st century. Post as a podcast or a mashable using Animoto (here are other Video creation tools).
- Create weekly videocast of catching students, teachers, and leaders in the act of furthering and promoting the above definition in #2. In the same vein, create a contest for the best video of a learning culture that supports the Framework--winner receives Ipad, netbook (okay, maybe stretch, but wishful thinking). This contest can be held at two different learning levels--the principal submitting to district panel and students submitting to school panel (all in the family of learners, right?)
- Conduct a gap analysis (or SWOT--Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, or Threats) of district and or school curriculum mapping. Where do the tech standards align? Where is the 21st century framework aligned? Does each curriculum objective have a Framework focus? Are the resources listed to show activities that engage students with 21st century assessments (problem based learning, e-portfolios, authentic assessments that apply concepts to real-world situations), or PD required for teachers (wiki support and resources, blogs focused on 21st century learning and instructional decision making). Here is an example of an Integrated Curriculum Mapping Chart and a Technology Integration Matrix
- Create weekly (or monthly) PD on 21st century literacy, the 21st century framework, National Ed tech Plan, National Education Tech Standards for Administrators, Teachers, or Students, and the like by using a Google Site. Ask grade levels or departments to be responsible for developing a module of the training to help build awareness and learning capacity--making it relevant to all teachers regardless of area of specialization; important to plug in the enhancement or wheel teachers (EC, art, science, PE, music)
- Have as a standing agenda item at monthly faculty meeting a 21st century literacy, learning, or leadership moment, first modeled by the administration (more on this 'show a little, teach a little" in future posts in this series); allow departments to share and show case how they are making 21st century themes and concepts a reality in their classrooms. Create an interactive and powering-up environment so that it is not a "sit-get-and spit" environment.
- Use Wallwisher to create a school-wide board to post 21st century learning in action with images and pictures; use this wall to celebrate teachers or students catching the 21st century fever. Here are some other examples of how Wallwisher can be used in the classroom and in the school: http://cloverleafcollaborative.pbworks.com/Wallwisher-Ideas
- Conduct an administrative cabinet book study using Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement by Lynne Schrum and Barbara Levine or The World is Open by Curtis Bonk or 21st Century Skills by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel
- Create Word Clouds (Wordle, Tagul, or Tagxedo) around the building that showcase a component of the 21st century framework, skill, theme, etc or the NETP, or the NETS standards for teachers, students, and administrators--post them on the district, school or classroom blogs; create a "guess the 21st century learning Word Cloud".
The above activities will aid leaders in being intentional about modeling and leading by example.
The following challenging questions will help leaders stay on point, focus on what really matters: Teaching and learning. Then "shift" will begin to take shape:
Be the change. Model the change. Lead the change. Stay on point and don't get mired in the operational, overwhelming feelings of being covered-up. Be vigilant. Be a crazy man or woman for a district or school culture that exemplifies new paradigms, that models the "shift". Clay Shirkey says, "The Revolution doesn't happen when society adopts new tools. It happens when when society adopts new behaviors." Adopt this new behavior. Speak it, live it, practice it.
21st Century Skills (A Series of Blog posts)
Next Post in this Leading by Example Series: Be the Model In Chief