Friday, February 09, 2007

21st Century skills

(This article appears in the February 13 edition of the Guernsey Gazette)
For those of you familiar with Guernsey-Sunrise schools in the area of technology, you know that the district has done a great job of providing its students and staff with up-to-date technology. Today I would like to focus not on the hardware and software, but on the skills that our students will need to succeed as they enter the workforce today and in the decades to come.

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, schools of today are not preparing our students well for the world in which they will live. A survey of business leaders said much the same thing and a Department of Commerce and Labor report stated that jobs in this century will require new ways of thinking. Our students will live and work in a world that is flattening at a rapidly accelerating pace. In his book, “The World is Flat,” Thomas Friedman writes of the many “flattening” influences that have occurred to bring us the world of today; the World-Wide web, off-shoring of labor, uploading and open-source software, and the proliferation of personal digital and virtual devices.

Technology is rapidly changing the way we interact in the world. According to an article by Willard Daggett, it took almost 35 years for the telephone, 26 years for television and 16 years for personal computers to achieve a 25 percent penetration rate in American homes. PDAs took three years. According to Bill Gates, technology capacity is doubling every nine months. We are seeing technological advances happening so quickly and it is our students who will have the most need to adjust to these changes. If we are to provide our students with the ability to compete, not only in Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain region, but also in the worldwide marketplace, we must provide them with the skills to do so.

Not only will students have to master the basic core academic subjects, but additional 21st century skills as well. These include 21st century content including global awareness, financial and civic literacy, and health awareness; higher level learning and thinking skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and collaboration; and information and communications technology literacy, including the ability to use technology to learn and work.

At Guernsey-Sunrise schools, we are looking at ways to present and help students master the technological and other skills necessary to succeed in a global community. We must collaborate to create a common vision that includes these skills, assess where we, and then develop a plan to help students achieve these skills. We look forward to the challenge of creating an outstanding 21st century education for all students.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Using strengths to enhance learning

In a recent post on strengths, I was asked how discovering one’s strengths could help students learn better. That is a very good question and one that goes to the heart of what we’re trying to do at Guernsey-Sunrise schools. Our focus in this philosophy is to help all those we can discover their strengths and develop them to achieve excellence in what they do. Staff members that understand their own strengths will enhance their ability and skills to help students learn. By focusing on developing their strengths, teachers become even better at delivering instruction. An understanding of strengths also gives teachers another tool to get to know their students better and therefore, differentiate instruction. By differentiating instruction, teachers provide students with varying learning styles a way to better understand the material presented.

Eventually, many students will be surveyed in order to learn their strengths. This will help them not only have a better understanding of the things they do well, it will give them a positive approach to the differences among them. In addition, resources will be available to discover study tips and learning environments that best help each student learn.