New ASCD Video on 21st Century Skills
From the AEC's blog
We recently received a new video from ASCD, titled “21st Century Skills: Promoting Creativity and Innovation in the Classroom.” We decided to watch it and blog about our reactions. Enjoy!
First, the DVD menu was split into five chapters:
- Individual and Social Creativity
- Discovering Unique Gifts and Strengths
- Working Smarter, not Harder
- Addressing the Whole Child
- Understanding the Change Process
Host Tony Nam began by talking about the need for 21st century skills in the workplace. Good place to start, but that’s predicated on an assumption that the purpose of school is to create future workers. We believe that’s one purpose, but not the only one.
The DVD chapters are the five conditions that help promote creativity and innovation. In the first chapter, the video featured footage from a middle school classroom. Students were working both alone and together. We saw lots of use of essential questions, open-ended questioning, and divergent thinking.
The second chapter talked about project-based learning. Footage from the Howard Gardner School in Virginia showed high school students installing a solar panel system in a house.
The third chapter, about working smarter, started with students creating a rubric for their writing based on what they’d learned so far. This is a great way to engage students in an arts classroom, by asking them to create rubrics for projects or performances at the beginning of a chunk of instruction/learning. If you asked students to decide what would constitute an A or proficient, would that change the way they work? This chapter also talked about the importance of big ideas in learning instead of isolated facts. We’ve been using big ideas in our curriculum work with local districts, including the Pittsburgh Public Schools. PPS has adopted the six big ideas from Pennsylvania’s Standards Aligned System and is designing K-12 music and visual arts curriculum around these ideas.
The fourth chapter addressed the whole child. The focus was mainly on social well being and the ability to work together. We’re wondering why the focus was on social well being instead of on, well, the WHOLE CHILD. More information in this section on health, emotional wellness, and other aspects would be appreciated! For example, the video points out the way that companies like Google are reinventing workspaces to facilitate collaboration. One of the other reasons these spaces work is because they encourage workers to move throughout the day instead of sitting at a desk.This chapter could definitely include more about the different types of wellness that make up whole child education.
The final chapter focused on the change process. We know change, like death and taxes, is inevitable. An important component of 21st century education is dealing with change.Cole Complease (from our own Penn State University!) made an interesting statement about how students deal with change. They actually need a whole range of skills, because change rarely happens in one step. It is a number of steps that require different skills. The world is changing so quickly that our students constantly need to adjust and change with it.
One thing that is missing from the video is definitions of creativity and innovation. People use these terms all the time and often mean different things, so it would have been helpful to have those definitions at the very beginning so we understood what the conversation was about. When the video wrapped up at the end and the host talked about creativity and innovation and the important role they need to play in education, we felt like the video, while showcasing great examples of 21st century learning, didn’t make an explicit connection between these skills and creativity/innovation. We didn’t see students innovating as much as engaging in real-world, authentic learning experiences.
The other thing that was missing was a clear understanding of how 21st century skills work in an elementary environment. Students need a basic understanding of how the world works in order to engage in these kinds of projects. Perhaps a follow-up video could explore these concepts with PreK-4 students, showing how to build that foundation so that 21st century, real-world learning can occur in middle and high school.
Thanks, ASCD, for a thought-provoking video. Our next step will be to explore the materials included with the DVD, like the PowerPoint and handouts.