Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Archive for April, 2010

Your Turn: The ELMO HV-110U Document Camera

Posted by wrmcnutt on April 30, 2010

Some of ya’ll might remember a bit of old tech called an “opaque projector.”  This was a monstrous piece of hardware about two feet tall, two feet wide, and three feet long.  It had an complex and expensive set of optics that allowed you to put a book or other printed material on it’s target platform, and it would project an image of it on the screen.  It took a lot of lumens to project that image, so the thing ran hot, consumed a lot of power, and ate expensive bulbs like they were popcorn.  Accurate milling of lenses is an expensive, labor-intensive process, so this was also a very pricey way to heat up your classroom.

While you can still find opaque projectors today, mostly marketed to artists, they have largely been replaced by the document camera.  This is a specialized video camera with a short focal length that is suspended over the book or other material the instructor wants to project onto the screen.   With far smaller optics, it runs cooler, takes up far less space, and in general is handier than the old opaque projector.  The problem is, they cost about the same as opaque projectors used to.  In general, they start at around $1200.00 and go up from there.  Without a lot of effort, you can spend $5000.00 on a document camera.

Well, I’ve found one for under $800.00.   It’s called the ELMO HV-110U.  As you can imagine, I’m skeptical of the quality of the image that’s going to come out of a camera that’s this cheap, and to make things worse, the only two reviews I’ve found are quite negative.  But that’s only a couple of guys’ opinions.  I thought before I make a commitment to this piece of hardware one way or another, I’d ask you guys.  Have any of you worked with this particular document camera?


Posted in Technology In the Classroom | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

New Page – Effective Presentations

Posted by durencls on April 29, 2010

At the risk of feeling something like evangelists, Bill and I are currently advocating that all the instructors, trainers, and professional developers we know take a hard look at how they use PowerPoint for instructional purposes. All too often, brain research and what we know about effective communication is totally ignored when creating PowerPoint-based presentations.

This ties in, we find, to  the idea of ‘visual literacy’ – which  is currently being touted as a critical future technology/job skill.

We do not, however, have time available to start and maintain another blog on this topic – besides that are already many VERY good ones out there!  Instead, we’ve just created another page for this blog:
Effective Presentations

We will add to this page regularly  – as we have time or come across another cool new idea or resource.  Please take a moment to visit it  – our recent reads include: How PowerPoint is used in the military (badly), and some recent video clips found on the Presentation Zen blog.

As always, please feel free to let us know if you’ve found something interesting on this topic and we’ll see about adding it!

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Effective Presentations, Job Skills | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

More Changes – Although This One Came Slow

Posted by wrmcnutt on April 28, 2010

Just the other day, Sony announced that they would be ending domestic (Japanese) sales of 3.5 inch “floppy” disks.  The latest and most efficient versions of this medium, the High Density disk, would hold 1.44 megabytes of data.  And they’re very, very slow to transfer data.  Now, Sony holds 70% of the market share for 1.44 MB floppies in Japan, so this is pretty much the death knell for this ancient and venerable storage medium.  It will take a little longer for this to roll out into the United States, as we hang on to our computer hardware longer than the Japanese, but the writing has been on the wall for a while.  Apple abandoned this medium several years ago, and as of last fiscal year, Dell no longer provided them as standard options on it’s commercial-grade computers. (Source: CNET – Sony delivers floppy disk’s last rites )

Introduced in 1987, the 3.5″ floppy had a twenty three year lifespan as a standard.  And that’s a pretty darn good run.  The 5.25 floppy, it’s immediate predecessor wwas introduced by Apple around 1978, and only lasted nine years.  The 8″ floppy, used before that, only lasted seven years. 

Today’s preferred portable media is the “memory stick.”  Also called a “thumb drive” or “jump drive,” 512 MB versions can be had for under a dollar, for the careful shopper.  For a dollar, you can buy a media stick that will hold three hundred and fifty five floppy disks.  Or, if you’ve got a little more money to spend, you can get an 8 GIGAbit drive for about $24.00.  It will hold the same amount of data as FIVE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED and FIFTY FIVE floppies.  For $24.00.  I remember being shocked when the price of floppies dropped below a $20.00 for a pack of ten.

SO – teaching learners to use floppy disks or even CDs/DVDs is probably not a good way to spend the tiny amount of time we have for technology training.  I would be very surprised to discover a computer in use with a floppy drive in another five years.

Posted in Futurism, Job Skills, Pace of Change, Teaching Tech Skills, Technology in the Workplace | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Seeing Patterns – A Medieval Tech Support Example

Posted by durencls on April 27, 2010

OK, this video has been around a while,* but we really like it. Medieval Tech Support demonstrates, for us, several common cognitive skills needed to deal with changing technologies. 

Do your students “generalize”?  Are they good at seeing patterns and using those patterns to solve similar problems?  Are they solid logical thinkers? Or are they like Ansgar here?

As we may have noted before, the inspiration for this blog came from many many technological support experiences  with folks similar to Ansgar.  We kept (and keep) seeing the same folks make the same mistakes over and over again in dealing with different technological experiences. We also see the same kinds of mistakes come up again and again across different ages and types of users having widely varying educational and training backgrounds. 

So then Bill and I got some Tech folks together and asked,  “What SKILLS do our problem users seem to be lacking when it comes to dealing with technology?”  The draft 21st Century skills list was the result. [Thanks to everyone who has so far given us feedback!]

As we talked with other Tech folks, one thing we came up with again and again was the concept of “generalization” – the ability to transfer knowledge from one venue or situation to another.  Ansgar here, cannot generalize the issue of “it opens from only one side”  from the larger tome to the smaller “manual.”  He also cannot generalize from what he knows –  if you roll up a scroll, the text is not lost – to this new format – if you turn a page, the text is not lost.

We also regularly came up with the idea of “logical or experimental thinking” – the ability to analyze what you already know and use that information to come to reasonable conclusions or make reasonable predictions. Ansgar treats scrolls and books as two totally different things – when in fact, they are still both just ink on parchment. If you cut the scroll up into several parts and stacked them one top of one another, you’d essentially have a book. For the most part, what is true for a scroll is true for a book, so you should be able to make predictions about books based on what you know about scrolls.

We think one key to developing these skills is regular practice in finding patterns and making predictions based on those patterns.   Knowledgeworks’ 2020 Forecast agrees that the skill of Pattern Recognition is, and will continue to be, critical to learning in the next 10-20 years. 

So our question to you is:
How do you teach pattern recognition, generalization, and logical thinking in an adult education classroom?
[We think these are HARD to teach – especially within the limits of adult literacy education.]
Any ideas? Any directions you recommend for research?

* This particular clip is about 3 years old, an English subtitled version of a video originally created for the Norwegian Broadcasting company (NRK) in 2001. It was performed on the show Øystein og jeg, starring Øystein Backe (geek) and Rune Gokstad (despondent monastic user), and written by Knut Nærum.

Posted in Meta-Skills, Technology in the Workplace | Leave a Comment »

How Those Over 60 Use E-mail

Posted by durencls on April 23, 2010

Ok, while we have been focusing on cognitive skills important for technology usage, Bill and I are tech geeks, and we also look at/track interesting information about teaching technology ‘hard skills’ as well.  This recent article from Science Daily, for example, caught my interest:

 How Do Older People Use E-Mail?

Often the folks hardest to reach with Technology are those born several generations past. These folks might say, “I don’t need this stuff,” or “I’m too old to learn technology,” and honestly believe they have too few years to bother learning or that their brain is simply wired wrong.  In truth, with medical advances, we as a society are living longer – folks at 60 may live 20 – 30 more years, and more and more folks in this age bracket are joining Facebook and shopping online (so ‘brain-wiring’ is more likely a motivation issue – not medical).

Here are the conclusions from the article that I thought were very important for Adult Educators trying to teach ‘hard tech’ skills to this age group:

Researchers have demonstrated that older people use email within a restricted circle of two different social groups: relatives (a few emails a month, but which are detailed and emotional) and close friends (more frequent and exchanging information based on their social life).

 They use email to communicate with their social circles; they don’t use it as a means of establishing relationships with people they don’t know. For this, they have other more down to earth strategies in their lives such as going to a social centre to a dance, and meeting people there,” confirms the researcher.

This emphasizes the idea that technology should be taught within a PURPOSE that is MEANINGFUL to the LEARNER. All too often we see technology seemingly taught for its own sake  – “Look, here’s the internet and here’s all the cool things you can do with it, ” or “Here is Microsoft Excel – and here’s how you accomplish all the basic functions.”  This teaches the technology, but without really connecting it to what the learners (including teachers!) want or need right now.

Using this research as a basis, a better approach might be, “Bring to class the e-mail address of 3 relatives who regularly use  e-mail and who you want to try communicating with online.”  Then set them up an e-mail account, and teach them how to:

  1. Send a basic e-mail to those 3 folks (session one)
  2. Read a reply, and how to reply to a reply (session 2 – you might send them a message to be sure they’ll have one)
  3. Add an address into their address book, and how to file away and trash messages  (session 3 – during this session, take pictures of each of them and later send each of them their own picture)
  4. View an attached picture and when NOT to view attachments & why (session 4 – for homework/practice have them send e-mail to at least 2 peers in class)
  5. Forward a message (with their picture attached) to their family  – asking for a picture in return. Practice replying to friends, adding addresses to address book, filing messages, etc. (session 5 – homework for next session is to buy a small flash drive for $5-6)
  6. Save the pictures sent to them via e-mail to a flash drive (previous ), and how to attach a file from the flash drive to an e-mail or reply. Practice filing messages, forwarding, sending & replying with attachments. (Session 6)
  7. Determine what spam/junk mail is and how to deal with it. (You may have to forward them some so they can see).

…etc.  Hopefully – you can see the idea. And HEY, the above is not a bad start for AE or ESOL learners of any age who have low tech skills!

The pace of tech change is not going to slow down for those who are older. It is our job as adult educators and technologists to help older learners see how tech can assist them to achieve their goals. We need to take up the challenge to effectively help them use even the simplest and most established of these technologies so that they will not be left isolated and alone as they live further and further into the 21st century.

Posted in Teaching Ideas, Teaching Tech Skills | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Update to Draft 21st Century Skills List – Metacognition

Posted by durencls on April 22, 2010

Thanks to Silvia Morgan for her feedback on the Draft Skills list – about the need for self-knowledge and knowledge of others’ strengths.  Based on her feedback, I did some research and learned a bit about the definition of metacognition. I then edited/added the following two skills to our draft skill list. You can see our discussion in the comments on the  Draft 21st Century Skills page.

Metacognitive Self-Knowledge: The rate and pace of technological change  that exists currently and is expected in the future will cause stress – we think folks will need to be flexible and adapt quickly   in order to feel comfortable and be successful. Knowing yourself – your strengths and weaknesses, how you learn best, your likes and dislikes, inclinations, talents, etc. is a key to adaptability and flexibility in times of change. 

To build this skill in adult learners, you could use tools that assist them to build reflective skills – journals (with or without reflective prompts), self-questioning strategies, personality and/or learning questionnaires, evaluation rubrics, etc.

 Metacognitive Knowledge of Others:  The enormous wealth of knowledge (as well as, um, ‘drek’) available to us currently, as well as the incredibly fast rate at which it is increasing has led to an overwhelming need for collaboration – now and in the future.  The ability to determine and capitalize on others’ strengths, using them to complement your own and compensate for other’s weaknesses is an important element of collaboration and being able to reach shared goals.

To build this skill in adult learners, build cooperative/collaborative learning activities into your class activities (more on this in a later post), which allow students to see the value in working with others. Incorporate evaluative rubrics, team reflections, and/or the role of “reflector” into those activities.  Have students reflect/present on what the perceive others in the class do well (this can also assist in building esteem and pride in your students).

Like Silvia, please do not hesitate to make comments and suggestions on anything posted to the blog, or e-mail us with ideas. if  you are interested in ‘guest blogging’ on the site (or even regularly contributing) let us know!

Posted in Futurism, Meta-Skills, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Common Core State Standards and the ‘Four C’s”

Posted by durencls on April 21, 2010

You’ve likely heard a lot lately about the “Common Core State Standards Initiative” and its recent English Language Arts and Mathematics drafts.  If not – it is currently all the rage in Adult Education vis-a-vis preparing adults for post-secondary education and ‘career readiness’.

Here’s what a recent press release from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills* says about how well these new standards integrate 21st century thinking skills (what a recent Partnership survey calls the 4 C’s – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity/innovation):

English Language Arts Standards are Promising; Mathematics Standards Need Work

In particular, I am struck by this statement:

“Additionally, the importance of collaborative communication is not addressed and the vision for student outcomes is one that rests on individual students working in isolation.

Students working in isolation” – how often is that what you would see if you walked into an Adult Education classroom?  With students working at different levels and/or on different skills as they progress towards their individual goals – one can see how this might seem the simplest or most efficient way to serve their varying needs.

But I perceive that so many of our adult learners were not successful in school in part because they lack strong social skills.  If they were charming and worked well with others, they would be FAR less likely to drop out (hmmmm…there is lots of research on this – let’s see if I can find some and post it!).

So working well with others – listening and speaking skills, the ability to resolve conflicts, lead others, work towards a common goal – these are even MORE critical and important to teach in an adult education setting – yes?

I challenge Adult Education instructors – how have you fostered collaboration or even social skills amongst YOUR adult learners today? this week?

For more from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills – also read the results of their recent survey of over 2 thousand managers and executives  in the American Management Association (AMA):  AMA 2010 Critical Skills Survey: Executives Say the 21st Century Requires More Skilled Workers

* Thanks to Richard Sebastian, an Instructional Technology Specialist at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center for bringing our attention to this organization and the survey results in a recent AALPD post!

Posted in Changing the AE field, Job Skills, Meta-Skills | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Draft 21st Century List Page Added

Posted by durencls on April 20, 2010

Today we’ve added a Draft 21st Century Skills List page to this blog.

Please take a look and tell us what you think.  It is not meant to be exhaustive – but a good start on what skills you would need to be successful using technology in the workplace and society in the next 10-20 years (or more?).

Please comment to add your ideas!

Posted in Job Skills, Meta-Skills | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Providing Web Access is Not Enough

Posted by durencls on April 19, 2010

Again, I am fascinated by the circuitous routes by which you find stuff on the web. Today, looking for something else entirely, I stumbled upon Eszter Hargatti, an Associate Professor at Northwestern University, whose work is focused on how people use the web in their everyday lives.   Here’s a great quote from a recent Northwestern press release:

Even among college freshmen and digital natives — those young adults who grew up with the Internet — higher-level Internet skills and more sophisticated Internet usage still strongly correspond to socioeconomic status, according to a new Northwestern University study. [Hargatti’s]

In other words, the differences between the connected versus those not online at all don’t tell the full story of the digital divide, according to Northwestern researcher Eszter Hargittai. The finding has important implications for the ambitious National Broadband Plan recently sent to Congress by the Federal Communications Commission.

Spending billions of ‘stimulus’ dollars to wire the nation with high-speed Internet access alone will not ensure that all Americans have meaningful access to the Web,” said Hargittai, associate professor of communication studies.

To provide meaningful access, the program will have to also focus on Internet education and training,” she added. “Providing infrastructure without offering training is a bit like giving people cars without providing driver’s education.” [emphasis added]

The press release, like many, does not go on to state what should be DONE about this issue – just states the problem and indicates that the current federal plan is not enough.  Further reading in Hargatti’s research, however, indicates that:

a)  there is a relationship between knowledge and understanding of how to use various technological aspects of the web, and using the web for life-changing purposes (as opposed to for pleasure/social purposes), and

b) there is a relationship between amount and ease of access to the internet and knowledge of how to use it. Essentially, she found that those who had access to the internet at work and at home for personal purposes, and who get on the web at least once daily, are more knowledgeable about how to use the web. [BTW – She was able to find no correlation between speed of access and use or knowledge.]

Hmmm – so if a person does not have ready access to an internet connected computer on a daily basis, OR does not feel free to use the internet at leisure daily, then they are likely to be less knowledgeable about a) how to use the internet (at all) and b)  about how to use the internet for ‘life-changing’ purposes (Hargatti uses the term “capital-enhancing online behavior’). 

So getting broadband access available nationally *IS* one way to address the problem (or part of it), but to make things happen faster and for ALL folks, it sounds like  EDUCATION must also be a part. Imagine that.

Ok so, based on her research, we posit a three pronged Internet Education approach in AE (tell us what you think of this):

  1. Actively teach students how to use the internet for purposes OTHER than pleasure (chat, social networking, games, etc.). – things like: comparison shopping; jobs research; e-mail communication for decision making, scheduling, work-related communication, etc.; reading about current events; comparing viewpoints; and research. Hey these are all ‘critical thinking’/meta-skills type tasks!
  2. While doing the above, teach them the basic knowledge of how to use common technologies like viewing & printing pdfs, setting preferences, search tools, printing, bookmarking/favorites (file organization); and saving/copying graphics.  Also address issues of digital literacy like copyright and security/safety, as well as common troubleshooting issues. Hmm – this is all about teaching ‘hard tech’ skills. Also sounds like an internet-based computer in the classroom (or computer lab time) is a must for this!
  3. Get students to spend more time on the internet DOING these things outside of class – using the internet at least once daily for a “capital-enhancing task” – at home, at a friend’s house, at the library, community center, or in the school’s computer lab (or on their IPod or cell phone if they have internet access). I can so see an “internet use log” and perhaps even a graph of how much time they spend on the web doing “life-changing” stuff!  Hey, this any teacher can do!

Well, now, what impact does all of the above have on our emphasis on the need to teach thinking skills as opposed to hard tech skills for success in the 21st Century?

Posted in Meta-Skills, Teaching Ideas, Teaching Tech Skills | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Collaborative Knowledge Generation – Dr. Wesch’s example

Posted by durencls on April 15, 2010

So, I was investigating how we can effectively use web 2.0 technology in adult education  and I ran across Dr. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist and “digital ethnographer” focusing on the changes web 2.0 is having and could have on our society.   Reading through his blog, I came across this post – How to get students to find and read 94 articles before the next class

OK,” I thought – “…that sounds pretty cool, even if it was at the university level, how did he pull that off?”  Essentially, he used something like a classic cooperative learning Jigsaw. Each student was assigned to find online, read, and summarize 5 articles on a single class topic. Students entered this information quickly and easily into an online database so everyone could see what articles had already been submitted to avoid repetition.  Summaries were due 36 hours before the next class.  Students were then required to have READ everyone else’s summaries before class – in this case 96 articles (some folks entered more than 5).  His statement was that the class conversation resulting was phenomenal.  With such a a broad understanding of the topic, a much richer discussion and debate occurred.

So, thinking about this one cool example of collaborative knowledge generation – “Web 2.0 thinking” – I asked myself “What future skills does this example include?”  “How could we teach those skills to AE students?”   “How could we teach those skills without access to the internet or the technologies Wesch used?”

 OK – “Metaskills”  involved that *I* saw (in order):

  • Research – finding the articles on a topic on the web, at your readability level.
  • Reading – skimming (don’t need to read the whole article in depth in order to summarize the main points.)
  • Writing – creating a 3-4 sentence, concise summary of the main points in an article; writing a well stated clear summary for peers.
  • Reading/Critical Thinking Skills – Analyze and integrate reading with prior knowledge (synthesize, make connections, generalize, etc.)
  • Listening/Speaking skills – clearly communicate your points in a non-offensive manner, listen to other’s points and build on their thinking, respecting others’ points of view…
  • Hard Tech skills – Internet search techniques, Use of a web browser, basic typing skills. (Note that all but these last are also pretty clearly GED, workplace, and/or post-secondary ed skills as well.)

Wow.  And in the process they are automatically “creating knowledge collaboratively” – and learning to vlaue one another’s input. So what might this look like in an AE/ESOL class? With or without technology access?

How about a topic of career exploration? Each student chooses a job sector (like education or health or automotive, etc.) , and finds out about 2-5 jobs in that sector – via the internet, classifieds, interviews of folks holding those jobs, books magazines, etc.  They collect information that they feel their peers would want to know, and then prepare a short summary of these jobs  for their peers.  These summaries are communicated to their peers, and then a class discussion of career options is held.

Adjustments for learner’s functioning levels/access to technology:

  • Searches could be done via interview, online (e-mail, live chat, skype) or offline (in person or via phone); via the newspaper online or offline, via articles or web pages online or offline; books at different reading levels, etc.
  • Written information to be gathered could be dictated in part or in full by a list of teacher generated or student generated questions (individually or as a group), students’ writing tasks might be to fill out a form (online or on paper), or to write a more free-form paragraph – on paper or on a wiki, or a blog…
  • Students could have to read each other’s summaries or listen to them on recording (on or off line, with or without the written piece in front of them).  To stay in the spirit of this exercise, the reading/listening of each other’s summaries should be done independently or in small groups- not as a whole class “report out.” (One person reading while everyone else in class listens is the very opposite of “cooperative learning.” ) If done in small groups, folks could be grouped in like sectors for initial discussion or in unlike sectors to take back to a sector discussion (see below).
  • Follow -up discussion: Whole class discussion of best jobs, worst jobs, most interesting, most surprising. Have students group and discuss by sector before or after a cross sector discussion, etc.
  • Math Extension – add a survey component – ask questions about the class’s job preferences based on this research (how many want jobs in each sector, which are the best paying jobs, etc.), and graph results.

Here’s an example of how even low ESOL folks could participate: Students choose sector by photo, conducts interview in English, native language ,or through interpreter, but then must fill in a 3-4 line form with stuff like name of job, pay,  work hours/days, and whether or not they think they’d like the job, and “report out” orally to class.  Students then “vote” for jobs they’d like to have after hearing about all of them.  Based on this information- they go out and research more!

Whew! I’ll stop now.  Any other ideas or brainstorms prompted by Dr. Wesch’s strategy?

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Meta-Skills, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »