Tag Archives: educational technology for learning

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.