Putting 21st Century Skills to Action

What do educators mean when they talk about 21st century skills? If they're referring to things like collaboration, resourcefulness, smart use of technology, and problem-solving, here's strong evidence showing how these skills are becoming a natural part of students' daily lives. Sharon Noguchi writes in the San Jose Mercury News about the changes student activists in the Bay Area are making in their own schools.

Exhibit A: An eighth-grade class at Renaissance Academy that's on a mission to bring updated technology to its school. They tested all different kinds of gadgets to figure out what they need, sent out newsletters, applied and received a grant, wrote to elected officials, and created a site on Donors Choose to raise enough money to buy tech tools for the class. They've still got $1,700 to go, but they're making progress -- and they'll keep the effort going despite the fact that they're graduating this year.

Exhibit B: One junior took it upon himself to include students' voices in changing the school-year calendar. He took a comprehensive survey and presented the results to the school board, influencing one of the trustees to vote for the students' choice.

Exhibit C: A 13-year-old created a Facebook page to lobby to keep three of his teachers who'd been pink-slipped. He also emailed the school district's superintendent -- twice -- to let his opinions be known. The outcome? Two of the three teachers' layoff notices were rescinded.

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These accounts of student empowerment and savvy exemplify what we mean when we refer to 21st century skills, and why they're so important. Students can see how much power they have in making an impact in their own lives.

What does that take on the part of the educator?

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"It required a lot of giving up control," said the Renaissance Academy teacher. "Everything has been student done."

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