Tagged “21st Century Skills”

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

10 Ways Technology Supports 21st Century Learners in Being Self-Directed

Lisa Nielsen 

This article has been reposted with permission from Lisa Nielsen, creator of The Innovative Educator blog and the Transforming Education for the 21st Century learning network. She is an outspoken and passionate advocate of learning innovatively and has worked for more than a decade in various capacities supporting schools and districts in providing innovative learning opportunities that will prepare students for 21st century success. Connect with Nielsen on Twitter @InnovativeEdu. 

Life in the 21st century provides a whole new world of opportunities for self-directed, passion-driven, personalized learning. Educators who are ready to move on from teaching the way they were taught, and have administrators who will let them, can begin supporting students using tools and strategies available to the 21st century learner. 

Here are 10 ideas every teacher should consider when supporting learning for students today. 

1. Personal Learning Networks 

Perhaps the core of passion driven, self-directed learning is the development of personal learning networks, which can be developed through blogs; social networks like Facebook, Ning, or Group.ly; Twitter; and discussion boards. Read 5 Things You Can Do to Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network, The PLN Matures. The Progression of the 21st Century Personal Learning Network, and 5 Ways to Build Your 1.0 and 2.0 Personal Learning Network to learn how to get started. 

2. Tweet to Connect with Experts 

If you have an interest, Twitter is the place to connect with others who share that interest. Simply do a search on Twitter for the topic and you'll be connected to many others interested in the same topic. Follow them. Reply to them. Use the search term in your tweets and others interested in that topic will see your tweet. Students can even have their own newspapers created instantly about their topic of interest using a service called Paper.li

3. Skype an Expert 

You can make your classroom a global communication center for free with Skype by connecting with anyone around the world about topics of interests. These experts may be people you have conversations with or perhaps they are people you learn from. Author, blogevangelist, teacher, thought leader, and father Will Richardson uses Skype to supplement his children's learning. Paul Bogush, an 8th grade social studies teacher, not only supports his students in doing this; they take it up a notch with a program they produce called Lunchtime Leaders. Students interview leaders from around the world on their opinions about what they should do to be prepared for the future. Bogush and his students do most of their interviews using Skype, and they turn the interviews into podcasts. 

4. Free Online Educational Resources 

Learn about whatever you want with free online education resources. The purpose of this coordinated movement is to move toward a common goal of providing quality courses for learning for free. Many of these resources do not require a teacher for students to learn

At the heart of the movement toward Open Educational Resources is the simple and powerful idea that the world's knowledge is a public good and that technology in general, and the World Wide Web in particular, provide an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and re-use knowledge. 

—The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation 

5. Online Learning 

When given the choice, students often say they LOVE learning online and not just because it lets them sleep in. They find that they are exposed to many more possible courses in alignment with areas of interest and moving at their own pace without distractions of classmates enables them to learn more effectively. Many public schools, universities, and colleges are starting to jump on board, and companies like Zulama.com are popping up that offer high-interest online courses students can't find at their high school. Access to unique subjects they're passionate about makes Zulama a place teenagers want to go to learn. With Zulama, students connect, teachers simplify, parents stay involved, and schools get ahead. 

6. Authentic Publishing 

In the 21st century, irrelevant hand-it-in teaching should be a thing of the past. If a student's work has no authentic audience beyond the teacher, it shouldn't be assigned. Student who are self-motivated to do something count. A teacher directing them to do it does not. Most 21st century kids love to share with real audiences and are doing it outside school already. Inside school, work should not sit lifeless on a computer or even just the school website. Support students in finding real audiences for their work in their global community. If you're not sure how, find out by reading 21st Century Educators Don't Say, "Hand It In." They say, "Publish It!" 

7. Use YouTube and iTunes to Learn Anything 

It's rather outrageous that many schools still block one of the most powerful tools for learning available for students today: YouTube. While iTunes is a powerful option for learners on the go, YouTube adds the visual element, making learning even more powerful and FREE! With YouTube Education and iTunes University, more and more colleges, universities, and their professors are sharing content for free. Although some schools are paying for pre-packaged online learning options, they're really all already out there for free. Empower teachers and students to design their own learning and learn about whatever they want with these free resources. Not only are these good resources to go to learn from others, but they're also a smart place to ask for help like this student did who needed help with his bowdrill set. 

8. Passion (or Talent) Profiles 

When we start collecting profiles of students' passions, talents, interests, abilities, and learning styles, suddenly students and teachers have an awareness that they may never have considered previously. A passion (or talent) profile is not only of value for teacher and student self-awareness; it is also a helpful tool for students to connect with others who might share a passion. These students could connect on a topic of interest, collaborate, and share ideas. These profiles can be purchased using a company like Renzulli Learning or they can be made for free with Google Forms and Spreadsheets. Either way, it's much easier to differentiate instruction when teachers and students can quickly and easily see where they stand and sort by interest, learning style, talents, or abilities. 

9. Develop Authentic Learning Portfolios 

When done well, ePortfolios can be a powerful tool that helps remind students of their accomplishments and enables them to share them with the world. In the 21st century, creating an ePortfolio is free and easy. Students simply select a container, such as a blog, wiki, website, or Google site; decide how they'd like to organize it; and then post their work. I strongly advise against using any paid-for portfolio sites. It is important that students have ownership of their own work and that it can travel with them wherever they are. When it comes to ePortfolios, Helen Barrett is the go-to person. To learn more, visit her blog, where she shares fantastic ideas. 

10. Empower Students to Assess and Learn Themselves 

The days of teacher-as-gatekeeper of the answer key or teacher edition are gone! Educators need to stop hiding and start sharing information with students, including enabling them to learn how to assess themselves. If students want to know their reading level, show them how to determine it with resources like those you can find here. If students create a video, honor the built-in authentic assessment like number of views and comments to evaluate their ability to find an audience. Show examples of how to share with appropriate audiences and get feedback for improvement. If students want to know how well they might do on a test, let them find a test-prep review site where they can take practice tests and see the results. Empower students to develop their own learning plans and assessments so that they can learn and assess independently. After all, they are the ones who own the learning. 

In our globally connected world, it is no longer acceptable for teachers to teach the way they were taught, nor is it OK for administrators to allow it. It is also no longer acceptable for administrators to take the easy way out and require connected kids to learn in a disconnected environment where they are banned from accessing sites or bringing to school the tools and technologies they love and need to succeed in the world.

In the 21st century, if we truly care about students' success, we will lift the bans, unblock the filters, and connect our students to the world so that they can learn effectively.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Finding a Home Among Digital Natives

In our education technology dreams, we can see young people using technology to engage in learning about a multitude of subjects, develop skills that will solve tomorrow's problems, connect to people around the world, and prepare for jobs we can't even conceptualize.

In our nightmares, we see young people who can't write complete sentences because they know how to write only in text-speak, lack social skills because they spend too much time in front of a screen and too little time learning how to interact with others face-to-face, and can't distinguish quality content from garbage. For many of us, these dreams and nightmares are daily realities. For others, these may sound like the possibilities and problems of a distant future.

Wherever your experience and opinions fall on this continuum, we can all agree that technology is here: it is a large part of most young people's lives, and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to harness its power for good and reduce its power to harm. To deny the challenges and focus with rose-colored glasses only on the positives and possibilities will shortchange our young people. Alternatively, having realistic and candid conversations about the challenges and opportunities, identifying promising practices and tools, and staying tightly connected to young people's use and experiences are essential to utilizing technology to keep students healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Throughout February, we're taking a hard look at what it takes to meaningfully integrate technology into students' lives to help them achieve the academic, social, and emotional learning and development key to their success. Download the most recent Whole Child Podcast, read and post your comments on the Whole Child Blog, and e-mail us resources for and examples of connecting digital learners.

Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read this month's newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Andrew Miller

Culturally Responsive Online Teaching

Online education can help solve the issues of equity and access for students across the United States. We have heard fantastic stories of student success in graduating from high school due to access to online courses.

Last year, Susan Sawyers wrote an article for USAToday showcasing how some students are using online courses to graduate on time. It's a great window into the potential and echoes many stories we hear from students, families, and community members who are experiencing online education. A diverse population of students was able to take classes to retrieve credit for classes they may have failed in the past.

Read more »

Klea Scharberg

Teaching Screenagers

Young people currently have access to technology on a level that is almost mind-boggling to older generations. Today's students spend their time texting; tweeting; and using technology as a form of communication, information, and entertainment. So how can educators use this to their advantage?

ASCD Express and the February issue of Educational Leadership explore articles on how educators are teaching "screenagers" in a world that increasingly relies on technology. Hear from those who are looking to the future to educate in the present. Learn more.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Two-Faced Technology: Hardening and Healing a Child's Heart

Alice Ray

Post submitted by Alice Ray, an expert on the intersection of technology and social-emotional learning. Connect with Ray on her blog or write her at aray@rippleeffects.com.

Our young people's connection to technology at times seems designed to close off their hearts and destroy their souls. From the redefinition of "face time" so that it removes actual face-to-face contact, to the brutal social dynamics of online bullying at scale, to addictive games that require taking the first person perspective of serial murderers, technology's powerful gravitational pull seems to be in the direction of dehumanizing its users. No wonder many educators are convinced that while technology may be a good way to distribute information, it comes at a terrible cost to the education of the whole child.

The counter argument—that digital technology has a gravitational force that humanizes and pulls people together—is just as strong. Video chat turns foreign citizens into familiar faces for students who will soon operate on a global stage. Online games provide the means for even young children to take their turn at solving difficult problems, from climate change to urban housing. Twitter can promote social change at a speed and scale unseen in previous human history—witness the recent weeks in Egypt!

The truest statement may simply be that technology is less of a force field in one direction or another than it is a power-generating source that has enormous potential to help, harden, hurt, heal, and hinder, not only children's minds but also their hearts and souls and, indeed, all forms of life. Like nuclear power, we may not be ready for it before it is ready for us. We may learn about protections that need to be in place for unanticipated outcomes after the fact, instead of before.

The latter is what has happened to me. As the designer of a technology-based program designed explicitly to address children's social-emotional needs, I have learned that technology can indeed scale best practice in social-emotional learning. That was the predictable part. I have seen the data that shows computer-based social-emotional learning can indeed translate into school success—a reasonable hypothesis but previously unproven.

I have also learned that digital technology can be an effective mediator of whatever it takes to begin to heal a child's broken heart. That was the big surprise. I've learned too that, as with nuclear medicine, without the proper protections in place, the process of highly targeted, digitally delivered emotional healing could have unintended additional consequences. That's the other foot dropping from this great surprise.

The kinds of emotional trauma students address on the computer when given the chance to do so privately, how it has affected their school performance, and what unintended harm they need to be protected from will be the subject of further blogs here this month.

Klea Scharberg

Free Webinar: Starting and Growing A Successful Online Learning Program

Thursday, February 17, 2011, 2:00 p.m. ET
Register now!

Education Week is hosting a free, live webinar on meeting district needs while providing tools for 21st century learners through an online learning program.

Learn about the most recent trends in online learning in K–12 school districts from Blackboard Practice Leader John Canuel, and then hear from Stacey Campo, Poway Unified School District’s instructional technology specialist, about the nuts and bolts of a successful district implementation. This webinar will share data regarding the opinions of K–12 district leaders nationwide about the evolving value proposition of online learning.

An archived version will be available within 24 hours of the presentation.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

In What Ways Can Technology Challenge Students to Achieve and Excel?

Cyndy Woods-Wilson

Post submitted by Cyndy Woods-Wilson, PhD, an educator passionate about enhancing the learning experience for at-risk learners. She has worked with at-risk students for 18 years, ranging from 7th grade to 12th grade, as well as at-risk students in college. Her research focuses on the particular needs at-risk learners have and which best practices in the classroom can help mitigate their interrupted learning patterns. Connect with Woods-Wilson on Twitter @cyndyw2.

It's tempting to argue that a healthy whole child shouldn't sit in front of a computer screen on one of those days when the sky is so blue and the air is swept clean and ... well, you get the picture. And it's tempting to argue that the same healthy whole child should always be engaged, supported, and challenged by the adult caregivers in his or her life. But consider, if you will, the idea that there’s an ever-expanding group of children who are not. Not supported, engaged, challenged, healthy, or safe. You know, the at-risk kids. How can technology help this group of at-risk kids achieve and excel?

The first and best thing technology can do is make them a "member of the club." Remember: They might not have electronic or internet resources available to them wherever they stay. And yes, it's where they stay, not where they live. Their living situations are volatile and result in abrupt withdrawals from schools. Once again they don't fit into a new school culture, but technology?

Technology becomes the comfort zone so that they can keep up with others on Facebook or YouTube or any other social media they might have encountered. And that's where being a "member of the club" makes all the difference. Online, we're all the same. You know what I want you to know about me. And my avatar gives me a chance to be something entirely different. And maybe, this gives me the chance to grow into something I want to be, rather than something the adults around me have left me to be.

Technology lets me explore how others live, play, think, see, and feel. Oh! That's what literature does, but at-risk kids often aren't readers. Yet they see and want to participate online with technology ... which involves reading and engagement and even challenges. Fortunately the challenges aren't as dangerous as what the kids might encounter outside, in their real lives, yet they learn how to handle challenges vicariously and can take that learning into their real world.

And in their real world, the lack of support can be crippling. Technology can help provide that link to a group who are supportive. The assumption is that the friendships made online are productive and not predatory. That's a challenge for those of us who teach the at-risk child how to use technology. We need to face them as a whole child, who may not have the whole picture on what it means to be safe and who is safe to be around. We need to be passionate about their lives and their desires to be supported, engaged, challenged, healthy, and safe. We cannot make the assumptions that they do know how to use technology, only that a curiosity exists. And in this world of handheld devices that grab hot spots, kids are connected as they play and visit and travel.

That being said, let's think about the catch-up value for at-risk kids. Without hours of computer time at wherever they stay, they know they're once again behind. Technology in schools gives them a chance to practice skills that they know are valuable and also gives them a chance to experience peer-appropriate levels of use. Once again, the school has a chance to normalize some of the very uneven playing field known as an at-risk child.

And how cool is it to know that giving them this catch-up while in a seemingly unhealthy area actually promotes the safety, engagement, and challenges that propel the at-risk child into the rest of the world. Not only engaged and challenged by the technology, they're also achieving a level of safety, knowing they're able to compete on another playing field.

We can't level all of the playing fields, but we can provide the technology that compels and moves the at-risk child into a safe, whole child mode where achieving and excelling are things they choose to do.

The sky is still blue on some days, and we all want to be outside, rather than trapped inside possibly straining our eyes to observe the nuances of the computer screens. But we also want our children to be safe, and sometimes that means knowing the programs they know others know and use ... achieving the ability to compete, and even excel.

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates


Oklahoma High School Parents and Principal Frown at New School Lunch Guidelines: Not everyone seems pleased with the new efforts to improve school nutrition. Some critics say that the new guidelines will cost schools money when it's not certain students will even eat the healthier choices. Without buy-in from some parents, principals, and even students, how likely is it that the USDA's nutrition standards are going to have an effect? Comment on ASCD EDge.

Read more »

Podcast Whole Child Podcast

Teaching in a Digital World: Connecting and Empowering the Whole Child

Download Podcast Now [Right-Click to Save]

Unfortunately, unchecked and unfocused use of technology can result in students disconnecting from the “why” of learning and from the real-time relationships that are key to their development and success. Alternatively, high-quality integration of technology has the potential to not only prepare young people for their futures, but also to enhance and expand learning and connectedness.

Join our guests as they discuss specific ways you can overcome barriers to connecting digital learners and lead your school community in meaningful technology integration. You'll hear from:

How does your school and community meaningfully connect digital learners to their peers, teachers, and communities; to rich and challenging learning; and to their futures?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Throughout February: Connecting Digital Learners

Join us throughout February to explore how we can meaningfully connect digital learners to their peers, teachers, and communities; to rich and challenging learning; and to their futures.

Unfortunately, unchecked and unfocused use of technology can result in students disconnecting from the "why" of learning and from the real-time relationships that are key to their development and success. Alternatively, high-quality integration of technology has the potential to not only prepare young people for their futures, but also to enhance and expand learning and connectedness. During the month, make sure to check out the following:

The Whole Child Podcast

Download this month's Whole Child Podcast on connecting digital learners beginning Thursday, February 3, to hear from

Our guests will discuss specific ways you can overcome barriers to connecting digital learners and lead your school community in meaningful technology integration.

The Whole Child Blog

Check out the Whole Child Blog throughout the month for contributions from experts and practitioners in the field, top education technology bloggers, Whole Child Partners, and ASCD staff who will share free resources, provide examples of connecting digital learners, and answer your questions. Be sure to leave your questions, ideas, and stories in the comments.

What Works in Connecting Digital Learners

Visit the What Works section for a one-stop (free!) shop to explore issues that are critical to transforming if we are to successfully educate the whole child. Our new topic pages are a collection of resources on the topics we address each month. Throughout February, we'll be adding resources to the "Connecting Digital Learners" topic page. Tell us what has worked to connect your digital learners. E-mail us at wholechild@ascd.org and share resources, research, and examples of powerful digital learning.

Social Networking

Connect (if you haven't already) with the Whole Child Initiative on Facebook and Twitter to be part of changing the conversation about digital learning with more than 7,000 people from around the globe.

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