Skills for the 21st Century

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

Archive for the ‘Teaching Ideas’ Category

Technology Applied to Unintended Uses

Posted by wrmcnutt on May 3, 2010

Dear AbbyThere was an interesting note in Dear Abby yesterday (4/29/2010).  The writer wanted to share an idea to get her children to read more.  Like many parents, “Proud Parents” would prefer their children to read.  The children preferred to watch more television.  The compromise that was reached was to turn off the audio on most programming, and allow the children to watch it only if they were willing to read the closed-captioning.

Closed Captioning

Closed Captioning

The result of this policy is that the childrens’ reading scores have greatly improved and the parents get more quiet time when the TV is on in the family room.  Abby rightly points out that closed-captioning, while intended for folks with disabilities, is a wonderful aid to people trying to develop ESOL skills.  I think that this technology would also be useful to adult learners working on conventional literacy issues.

Some teaching ideas/notes:

  • While many of you may have noted this before, adult learners may need some actual training on how to turn on closed captioning, and practice at doing so – you can provide this in the classroom.
  • Also note that you can have closed captioning on at the same time as the audio – great for those who are hard of hearing – and ESOL learners, and folks who are very beginning readers.
  • Even with the sound off, the visuals partnered along with the words on the screen can give struggling readers a boost – aiding in decoding and comprehension (building visual literacy?).
  • Another source of captioned materials – many YouTube videos are in another language and subtitled (see Medieval Tech Support!).
  • This again is a tool for practice, and should be partnered along with other reading instruction and practice activities in other formats – like online text, book text, e-mail, etc.

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: , , , | 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 »

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 »

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 »

EFF Skills Wheel

Posted by durencls on March 23, 2010

In our presentation (near the end) we referenced and handed out the “EFF Skills Wheel” – mentioning that many of the “21st Century skills” we had brainstormed during the session appeared on that wheel.  Here’s a link to an interactive version of the wheel shown below, including teaching ideas for each standard.

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

COABE Session Resource Handout with Hotlinks Posted

Posted by wrmcnutt on March 22, 2010

Duren and I are safely back both from COABE and from our vacations.  We hope you all had a fun and productive time at COABE yourselves!

Like you, we are both busily catching up on the professional obligations that cropped up since we last met, but we want to be sure to get you-all the items we promised at the presentation in Chicago.  We have published our presentation resource handout on our Center’s web site.  We’ve also listed it in the Links to the right. We hope to have our slide set with notes online shortly.

Bill and Duren

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