This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Teaching in Any Century
by Heather Taylor
n the fields of math, science, and tech- enter the Twenty-First-Century Skills
nology education, the phrase “twenty- movement. Like most initiatives in educa-
first-century skills” has gotten a lot of tion, however, it is not without controversy.
attention. The need for promoting such a The movement to meet these needs has
skill set is expressed by many, not least picked up speed in the last three years,
among them, the White House: especially perhaps because of the work
President Obama will reform America’s
of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills
public schools to deliver a 21st Cen-
(P21), a diverse group of business leaders,
tury education that will prepare all
technology corporations and education
children for success in the new global
companies, based in Tucson, Arizona.
workplace. . . . all Americans should be
They have partnered with sixteen states to
prepared to enroll in at least one year
create a framework for use in schools, one
of higher education or job training to
that will work with twenty-first-century
better prepare our workforce for a 21st
skills as the core.
century economy.
A more concrete sense of urgency is
What are twenty-first- An emphasis
expressed by Jo Boaler in her 2008 book,
What’s Math Got to Do with It? She writes,
century skills? on global
“American students do not achieve well
competition, critics
There are four main areas on which vari-
and they do not choose to study mathemat-
ous groups tend to agree when defining
argue, creates
ics beyond basic courses, a situation that
this skill set.
an atmosphere
presents serious risks to the future medical,
One relates to technology, meaning dig-
scientific, and technological advancement
in which only
ital literacy: being able to operate devices
of society . . . the advent of new technologies
one entity is the
such as data-gathering probes, use soft-
means that all adults now need to be able to
ware that assists with data analysis, and
reason mathematically in order to work and
communicate and conduct research using
live in today’s society.”
the newest technologies available.
In fact, it was due in large part to Pro-
Another aspect has to do with creativ-
fessor Boaler’s compelling arguments in
ity: fostering thinking outside the box,
the introduction of her book that Connect
problem solving, imagination, and entre-
chose the topic of this issue. The results of
the Third International Mathematics and
The core skills comprise another
Science Study (TIMMS) certainly seem
branch: math, language, the sciences, his-
to echo the idea that the U.S. is not at the
tory, the arts.
top of the list when it comes to math and
The last component is cooperation:
science abilities: “At the end of secondary
working in groups, communicating effec-
schooling . . . U.S. performance was among
tively, understanding team dynamics, etc.
the lowest in both science and mathemat-
Some groups incorporate productivity as
ics, including among our most advanced
its own category.
Surely in surveying the history of
Addressing these concerns seems like
education, none of these ideas is new,
a responsible, forward-looking action: we
although the specific technologies have
need to figure out how to help our children
changed since the time of the greeks, the
learn better so they can become informed,
progressive constructivists of the 1920s,
active citizens, maintain meaningful
and even the “open plan” movement of the
employment, and be adequately equipped
1970s. This point has prompted criticism
to deal with the problems of the future.
© synergy learning • 800-769-6199 • January/February 2010 Connect • Page 7
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