21st Century Education

What is it that our students really need to know when they graduate high school? Yes, they need some content knowledge, but with the web and instant access to the web, content knowledge is more readily available than when I was in school. Students need a new set of skills and schools need to change to meet this new need. The essential skills our students need (multiple sources and research prove these out as needed skills for college, careers, and life): Students need to be lifelong learners. They have to be able to access, evaluate, and use different forms of information, use critical thinking, and be able to use technology. Students need to be able to create solutions to problems and then present these solutions to others using various forms of media. Students need to display originality and employ problem solving skills as they create. Students need to be team players and need to be able to collaborate with others. They need to work successfully as a team, demonstrate cross-cultural awareness, and communicate complex ideas effectively. So, how do we teach them these skills? With new lessons and new assessments. Standardized tests and written exams are good for some things, but to teach 21st Century skills, we need to use Project Based Learning (PBL). This is how my college alma mater (www.wpi.edu) has been teaching students for decades and it works. With PBL, students learn how to find information, work in teams, solve problems, and present their ideas. These projects can be short and simple or long term and complex. There are a huge number of web sites and resources dedicated to PBL that all teachers should research. Let's help our students develop these new skills that they will need to be successful in the future.