Empower vs. Engage: Implementing 21st Century Skills for Student Achievement

A graduate student posted in an online technology/leadership class of mine recently, “Why are we still talking about trying to implement 21st Century Skills? We are IN the 21st century! When are we going to start making these changes??”  (First grade MN teacher)

Hmmmm…… this really got me thinking about how schools are doing in this regard. She is right! We are 10 years into the 21st century. Have things changed? Are schools focusing on 21st Century skills?

As we head in to 2010, I am pondering the overlap between several frameworks that address technology integration, student achievement, student engagement, and 21st century skills.

Several of these frameworks offer ways for educators to think about technology integration and learning.

1. ISTE standards for administrators, teachers, and students

2. LoTI (Levels of Teaching Innovation~ Formerly, Levels of Technology Implementation)

3. 21st. Century skills

Each framework supports very similar goals in terms of empowering students to use technology for learning. I have observed that there is a general push to “engage” students in learning. This is good practice and we know that research supports that when students are engaged there is a much stronger chance that we will grab and keep their attention. This will hopefully translate to improved student learning. However, EMPOWERING students is where I believe we have an even greater opportunity to really reach and support students to achieve their learning goals.

When students are empowered, they are asking the questions, doing the research, finding the sources, collaborating, communicating, working, solving, creating, analyzing, evaluating, and sharing. To really help our students be ready for the 21st Century, we need to look at what we can do to give students an opportunity to think deeply about concepts and to learn to learn. This is not easy work, but it is critical to helping students prepare for their future.

Other thoughts on the growing digital gap:

While technology use is not always needed to work on 21st Century skills, for many students schools may be the ONLY place that they have access to digital tools and the Internet.  The gap between the “haves and the have-nots” continues to grow. Those students who have access to technology at home or with mobile devices will continue to be able to practice and  become fluent with digital and ICT tools. Those that do not will continue to fall further behind. If this is true, how can we continue to teach without ensuring that all children have access to technology? If we do not, we become part of the problem and will leave many children unprepared.


3 responses to “Empower vs. Engage: Implementing 21st Century Skills for Student Achievement

  1. Chery,

    I’ve been thinking (and writing) about making changes in education too. We’ve been conducting research on “engagement” for decades. Now, a new decade has begun. The timing is perect.

    I’m the Founder of The Active Engagement Movement in Education. The Movement is driven by a Leadership Framework that includes leaders from the Public, Private, and Educational Sectors. Active engagement is embedded in the Framework, and the focus is on student performance.

    The Movement is all about joining forces…focusing leadership…and improving performance–not just for students, but for everyone at every layer in the Framework.

    I’m e-mailing you the Leaders in the Active Engagement Movement, and the Active Engagement Framework. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

    I’m working on an Official Active Engagement Movement Website, but you might want to visit my blog listed above.

    I could use your input and support.

    Ken Timpe
    MBA, MA

    PS I’m working on a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Systems Technology at UNCC.

  2. Dr. Sanford Aranoff

    Leadership, engaging students, etc., etc. No. What we need is to focus on the basic principles of the subject. Teachers need to understand how students think, and build from there using logic and examples. See “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better” on amazon.

  3. Dr. Aranoff,
    With all due respect, your solution to education (…understanding how students think, and using logic…) is much too narrow–just like most of the other “solutions” I’ve run across. The Active Engagement Movement is a strategic solution that is slightly larger than the problem. It identifies 16 separate leadership groups. The all have a role–a leadership role–to play. Simply focusing on teachers and students is only part of the solution. Leadership IS the answer!

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