Skills for the 21st Century

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

Archive for the ‘Changing the AE field’ Category

LAPCAE Materials

Posted by wrmcnutt on June 5, 2012

I’d like to thank everyone who came to my session, Emerging Technologies in the Adult Education Classroom. You were a fun group to talk to and I hope that everyone got something to take away from the session.  As promised, I’ve linked my slide set and handout below.  While you’re here, I hope you’ll take the time to look around and some of the articles we’ve shared in the past.  If you have any questions about the topic, or anything about technology in education, really, feel free to ask.  If we don’t know the answer, we probably should, so we’ll find out for you.


Posted in Changing the AE field, Job Skills, Meta-Skills, Pace of Change, Technology In the Classroom, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Common Core Standards – Where’s the Tech?

Posted by durencls on June 4, 2010

On June 2nd, 2010, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released  the Common Core State Standards  for grades K-12.

Developed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders including content experts, states, teachers, school administrators and parents… [we think that the] standards establish clear and consistent goals for learning that will prepare America’s children for success in college and work. ” [Read press release]

Many in the K-12 field and the field of Adult Literacy Education have been closely following the development of the Common Core Standards (see our 4/21/2010 post). It is expected that these standards will have a dramatic effect on WHAT is taught, WHEN, and HOW in all education fields. Upon (an admittedly quick) review of these standards, I noted these things overall:

  • The English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards documents have signficantly different formats/approaches (clearly written by different folks). Thus how these two documents address technology skills is very differently.
  • The Language Arts document is organized around a set of “College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards” in 4 areas: Reading – literature, informational text and foundation skills, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language) – skills they feel students should have upon exiting K-12 education. They also provide a ‘vision’ of students who are “College and Career Ready in English Language Skills.”   
  • The Math document contains a general list of “Standards for mathematical Practice” – processes and proficiencies important to all mathematical processes (technology is only mentioned in one place here in the entire document). The remainder of the document focuses on grade-specific “Standards for Mathematical Content” listing the procedures and understandings students should have at that level. They note however, that order may vary and hope that implementation of the standard may “…allow research on learning progressions to inform and improve the design of standards...”
  • The Language Arts document includes skills as applied in Social Studies and Science, and strongly emphasize the integrated nature of language skills with all other disciplines. The Mathematics Standards do not seem to do so.
  • Overall the Language Arts document seems richer and more well developed.  There is much more mention of technology integrated throughout. [But, then, it was written by *writers* not mathematicians, who tend to think about writing in a different way 🙂 ]
  • Technology: While I have not yet had the chance to read every paragraph under every grade level, I believe the writers of both documents have approached technology as a tool, not a set of skills in itself, and mention of technology is found mostly in the more “overarching” sections of the documents.
  • Lastly, it feels (to me) like there is something of a bias in these standards towards skills needed for success in higher education settings, although Career Readiness is mentioned throughout, there seems (to me) an emphasis of prepration for more academic environments.

So – what do these standards say about Technology skills for success?

The Mathematics Standards document says simply this, under Standards for Mathematical Practice:

5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. When making mathematical models, they know that technology can enable them to visualize the results of varying assumptions, explore consequences, and compare predictions with data. Mathematically proficient students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understanding of concepts.

The English Language Arts Standards document has more to say in several different sections:

Key Design Considerations:  Research and media skills blended into the Standards as a whole
To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.
(emphasis added)

In the Language Arts ‘vision’ statement – “Students Who are College and Career Ready in Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, & Language”:

They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.
Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.

In three of the four College and Career Readiness (CCR) anchor standards:

7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Speaking & Listening:
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
5. Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
And also – New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words, graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.

WOW, that’s a lot to think over!  And you may have other things you want to investigate in this new document as well.  So Bill & I are going to give ourselves a chance to ruminate, and compare this standards document to both our list of meta-skills and the overall philosophy behind this blog and get back to you on this later.  (We’re going out of town soon and need to go do other stuff!)

In the meantime, you think on it too – and PLEASE feel free to make comments!

Posted in Changing the AE field, Job Skills, Meta-Skills, Teaching Tech Skills | 6 Comments »

Measuring iCritical Thinking Skills

Posted by durencls on May 18, 2010

Today,  almost like we’d planned it, Twitter brought us this article announcing a new assessment tool from Certiport and Educational Testing Service (ETS) for measuring students’  ” …ability to think critically within technology-enabled academic and workplace environments.”

New test measures students’ digital literacy (from eSchoolNews)

Exactly what I just asked about in our most recent post!  So – never trusting a secondary source, I went to Certiport’s web site and read over their marketing materials on this new iCritical Thinking exam. They say:

  • This certification measures the ability to navigate, critically evaluate, and communicate digital information to solve problems on the job in real-life scenarios. 
  • the exam is suitable for students from high school (grades 10 – 12) through college, as well as for working adults.
  •  The iCritical Thinking certification exam is aligned with the nationally recognized ICT literacy standards and is endorsed by the Global Digital Literacy Council (GDLC). 
  • Other stuff: The exam takes about an hour, is written at about the 10th grade reading level, and can be used as a stand alone exam, or used as a capstone to other Certiport exams (of course).

Also interesting was this list of “tasks”/activities their material says is covered by the exam: 

  • Understand and articulate the scope of an information problem in order to facilitate the electronic search for information. [define the problem]
  • Collect and/or retrieve information in digital environments. Information sources might include web pages,databases, etc. [research and prioritize]
  • Judge whether digital information satisfies an information problem by determining authority, bias, timeliness, relevance, and other aspects of materials.
    [evaluate and analyze]
  • Organize digital information to help you or others find it later.
  • Interpret and represent information, using digital tools to synthesize,summarize, compare, and contrast information from multiple sources. [visual literacy, analyze, integrate]
  • Adapt, apply, design or construct information in digital environments. [create, innovate, wing it]
  • Disseminate information tailored to a particular audience in an effective digital format. [communicate effectively]
  • Asks students to integrate these technologies into the above tasks: E-mail, Instant Messaging, Bulletin Board Postings, Internet Browsing, Search Engines, Data Searches, File Management, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, & Graphics.

So, OK, on the one hand I’m all excited – I want to SEE it – review it (and maybe even take it!). Does it really do all it says? If so – well, that would be a pretty good start at measuring 21st century skills! 

On the other hand, I am skeptical – you have to be a fluent 10th grade level reader to take the test (about GED pass level) – so not so useful for our lower level adult literacy students attempting to get a job. Its also through Certiport, so its likely expensive. And it is brand new without a whole lot of user feedback.

Anyone out there tried it yet? Have anything to share?

Thanks to Debra Hargrove  for the link!  You can follow her on Twitter or see her work at  Florida TechNet.

Posted in Assessment, Changing the AE field, Job Skills, Meta-Skills | 2 Comments »

College Not Necessary for Success in 21st Century?

Posted by durencls on May 17, 2010

So, interesting/controversial article from the New York Times today(Thanks Margy!)

Plan B: Skip College 

Quotes from the article that caught my eye :

  • Perhaps no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years, according to the latest projections from the Department of Education. For college students who ranked among the bottom quarter of their high school classes, the numbers are even more stark: 80 percent will probably never get a bachelor’s degree or even a two-year associate’s degree. That can be a lot of tuition to pay, without a degree to show for it.

  • College degrees are simply not necessary for many jobs. Of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven* typically require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [* or higher, and note that most of these 30 are in the lowest paying categories, like retail and food service – ]

  • “It is true that we need more nanosurgeons than we did 10 to 15 years ago, but the numbers are still relatively small compared to the numbers of nurses’ aides we’re going to need. We will need hundreds of thousands of them over the next decade.”  Professor Vedder, founder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a research nonprofit in Washington. (And much of their training, he added, might be feasible outside the college setting.) [note that of the jobs listed in the second bullet above, TWELVE require only “short-term on-the-job training”]

  • Leading economists are cited as suggesting that the US should, “…steer some students toward intensive, short-term vocational and career training, through expanded high school programs and corporate apprenticeships.” 

  •  In one 2008 survey of more than 2,000 businesses in Washington State, employers said entry-level workers appeared to be most deficient in being able to “solve problems and make decisions,” “resolve conflict and negotiate,” “cooperate with others” and “listen actively.” [Sound familiar?]

The article does go on to present the related issues of lowering expectations, discrimination, etc. implied in directing some away from four (or even 2) year colleges.

BUT, if employers are failing students for lacking the basics of how to behave and communicate in the office – critical skills for ANY task – much less a technological task, then these issues NEED to be addressed by Adult Literacy programs and embedded in that curriculum.

I may have missed it – can anyone tell me where, in this recent federal push for “career readiness,” do we find funding and support for vocational training? Apprenticeships? Internships? Short-term certificate programs? Intense on-the-job training?

Our current academic systems – Adult Literacy Education included, are measured for accountability by participant/student performance on academic-type standardized assessments.  These are not designed to measure skills like “solve problems and make decisions” “resolve conflict and negotiate,” “cooperate with others” and “listen actively.” Are these tools, then an effective measure of how well folks are being prepared for the workforce?

What can the field of adult literacy (or even K-12 education) do to balance the call for more and more students to enter 2 and 4 year colleges?  How can we BEST counsel and support students for “beyond the GED?”

Posted in Changing the AE field, Futurism, Job Skills, Meta-Skills | 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 »

Help Your Students Stand Up and BE COUNTED

Posted by durencls on April 1, 2010

Today is National Census Day! 

That envelope you got in the mail?  It should be filled out as of today and mailed ASAP!

Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with skills for the 21st Century?

The Census forms a basis for determining congressional representation and districts, federal and state funding allocation , and many many other decisions about who gets what services and support in this country. In particular, the 2010 Census will affect the numbers in the American Community Survey – which is the current basis for how adult education funds get allocated ito states.

In a nutshell – every AE (and ESOL) student counted = more possible $ for the field of adult education that could be used to better address adults’ skills for the 21st century.

SO – to help address the issue of 21st Century Skills in Adult Education:

  • Mail back YOUR census form (mine went in the mail today).
  • Talk to your STUDENTS about the census – encourage them to mail in their forms, debunk myths, help them fill it out (especially the long form), create lessons about the census, etc.
  • Talk with your PEERS or STAFF about the census and its importance – get EVERYONE  in AE talking about how it could mean more $ for Adult Education.
  • Talk with your neighbors, family, friends about the census – while what is ON it is confidential for everyone, reminding them to mail it in or talking about its importance is NOT.  Also, the Census Bureau has LOTS of available help with the form!

Mail back your form, spread the word, and BE COUNTED!

Posted in Changing the AE field | 1 Comment »

Shift Happens – Revisited

Posted by durencls on March 31, 2010

At the very end of the Shift happens video, there is a web site address –

So I went exploring there – and I found:

◊  Two additional versions of the video – one mostly like the 2007 version with kickier music & graphics (version 3.0 from Sony BMG Music Entertainment) and one with a strong focus on digital media and social networking (version 4.0 advertising a digital media conference). Interestingly, I felt that neither of these really spoke to education as well as the 2007 version.  Sort of like the focus was ONLY on change – not so much on what to do about it.

◊   A list of ideas for what to do with the video – how to inspire others, use it for instructional purposes, etc.

◊   A list of other videos to “further the conversation.” (I’m still working my way through these – some I know we’ve seen before.)

◊   A discussion of the video and how folks have used it. (Reading these is on my to do list…man, keeping up with a community of practitioners can be hard!)

◊   And way down on the bottom, a link to a blog post named “Shift happens – Now What?”  And in that post they have the folowing quote:

“Too often, the initial response [to Shift Happens] is to look for money to buy more computers. Some educational leaders may say “Let’s make sure we have laptops in the hands of EVERY student!… SmartBoards in EVERY classroom!” While it is nice to have administrative support for new technology purchases, a “technology purchasing frenzy” is simply NOT the correct response to the realization that our schools are not doing enough to prepare students for their futures. This is really about changing adult perspectives and adult behaviors to create student-centered classrooms that exemplify research-based best practices around learning. It’s not about buying the latest, greatest, and most expensive tech toys on the market. Expensive tech in the hands of educators who haven’t made changes to their behaviors and instructional practice are no better than the good old chalk board, pencil, and paper. Even worse, expensive tech that the teachers see no use for will end up just collecting dust in a storage room. [Emphasis added]

Which confirms our assumption  “Planning for Technology” really means ‘making a paradigm shift’ – which is about training and professional development – not necessarily about investing in new/cool tech. 

How do we create pradigm shift in adult education? Ideas?  Our first suggestion is to read the entire “”Shift happens – Now What?”” post – within the post the author has some (strong) opinions about how educational organizations and educators need to change to make this paradigm shift. And at the end they have a list of suggested other blog posts with ideas for creating 21st Century learning environments.

Posted in Changing the AE field, Pace of Change, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

AALPD Discussion on Digital Literacy in AE

Posted by durencls on March 24, 2010

During our COABE session , we mentioned that AALPD discussion list recently lit up about the topic of digital literacy.  David Rosen had the instigating post  – you can view it here:  The Need for Digital Literacy in Adult Literacy Education .

David notes that  “74% of American adults, ages 18 and older, now use the internet as of December 2009.” (Pew research) and yet that “Many adult education teachers either do not have regular daily access to a computer and the Internet,…” (no citation)

He goes on to present a great list of “what things you can do” to improve Digital Literacy and focus on technology in the field of adult education – as a teacher, program administrator, state level administrator or AE funder.

You can also see most posts for this thread in the Archives by searching for “need for digital literacy” (results in roughly reverse date order, with some miscellaneous mixed in). Feel free to join in on their conversation (or pick it up in the comments here!)


Posted in Changing the AE field, Job Skills | 1 Comment »