How do we measure 21st century skills?

5/16/2013 12:00:00 AM
Guest Post by Steven M. Baule, Superintendent, North Boone CUSD 200, IL

As we move to implement a 1:1 pilot, I have received interesting responses, from a letter arguing that purchasing tablets will harm the environment to many more responses that express concerns that students will forego legitimate research materials for Wikipedia. How will the teachers instruct students to select legitimate research instead of some random blog or wiki?

When we speak of 21st Century Skills (as defined by groups like ATCS and the Iowa DOE), we seem to have an ethereal idea of the skills children need. But how are they measured or assessed? Does it matter that most of today’s 8th grade students can’t pass exams from the turn of the last century? We have given up the need to memorize facts, thanks to the Internet, but we need to do a much better job at synthesis and evaluation than previously required. In today’s world, we can easily “phone a friend” or at least text them. So why do we insist on requiring memorization for finals and standardized assessment? Technology can help us move away from the lower reaches of Bloom and create more dynamic assessments that require the true 21st century skills of analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. Some great examples of student work focused on creation are available here. How are you helping to move the students in your district to become creators and evaluators of information? As we approach final exams and the end of the year, I think it is a create question to reflect on.

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