21st Century Skills

A few enticing quotes to be found in the latest offering from the Partnership for 21st century Skills

“Teaching all students to think and to be curious is much more than a technical problem for which educators, alone, are accountable. And more professional development for teachers and better textbooks and tests, though necessary, are insufficient as solutions. The problem goes much deeper—to the very way we conceive of the purpose and experience of schooling and what we expect our high school graduates to know and be able to do.”
—Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap, 2008

“Your ability to act on your imagination is going to be so decisive in driving your future and the standard of living of your country. So the school, the state, the country that empowers, nurtures, enables imagination among its students and citizens, that’s who’s going to be
the winner.”
—Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times columnist

Another great document to download and pass on to school leaders and parents who might be questioning the path we have taken.

The wheels are spinning …


I’ve returned from another conference where the message was loud and clear, where the agreement was unanimous, and from which we all came back to our schools feeling good. But it doesn’t take long for the realisation to set in that, just like the picture above, our efforts at forward progress are little more than an illusion (there is no actual movement).

There is much talk, many workshops and briefing sessions and blogs and, and, and …… but sometimes I just wonder whether we’ll ever get any traction. As school infrastructures improve and hardware becomes increasingly available, there seems little excuse for not developing a true 21st century learning model. While there may be some islands of innovation scattered around the country, I’m not seeing much happening in NSW. Looking at the jobs available in the weekend newspapers I see innovative roles beginning to spring up in Victoria, and WA. No such movement away from the traditional positions in NSW. I wonder whether the political upheavals of the last few days will change anything? I can only hope!

Are we in NSW, guilty of seeing the HSC as the end-point in our responsibility to our students? As long as we get them through this examination, our job is done? I prefer to see us as preparing citizens of the future and educating them for a successful life (after school). The HSC is a mere blip in that journey, that currently carries far too much weight.

I am looking for good stories of success ………an indication that we are getting somewhere at a meaningful rate.

Can anyone provide these stories?

Who agrees that rote learning is important?

In response to an article in The Sydney Morning Herald last Saturday the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia,  said

“there would always be a place for rote learning and exams”, and …..”the situation that faces most people within NSW is that sooner or later they will be obliged to take examinations that require them to demonstrate rote learning.”

A School Principal is quoted as saying…”knowledge is important and committing information to memory will always have a place in the school curriculum.”

I’m having difficulty with understanding the need for this memory exercise when we should be focusing on and assessing higher order skills. Although many good assessment tasks are being used throughout NSW, we are still overshadowed by the spectre of needing to regurgitate memorised facts.

What’s the opinion out there?


National Curriculum


To develop a single, world-class Australian curriculum for all students from Kindergarten to Year 12, starting with English, mathematics, the sciences and history. The development of continua of learning in literacy and numeracy will be a foundation for this work.


Two interesting presentations here and a site to keep an eye on.

Anybody know if there is a Web 2.0 equivalent to this Mediasite software? Looks like a very smooth mix of video and stills that could be a useful classroom tool.

The futile 13 years



As students across NSW sit their Trial HSC Exams over the next week or so, today’s newspaper tells us that they represent a growing, illiterate bunch. The article quotes Professor Geof Masters, Chief Executive Officer for the Australian Council for Educational Research, as saying

"Most students can complete 13 years of school and be awarded a senior certificate without having to demonstrate minimally acceptable standards of proficiency across a range of fundamental domains such as reading, writing, numeracy, science, civics and citizenship," 

Of course, the Government has responded by listing the common tests that are visited on our children, from grade 3 through to year 10, and stress that the

"year 10 School Certificate – which included students being tested in literacy and numeracy – was a prerequisite for the HSC".

What seems to have been forgotten here is that despite many compulsory testing programs, there is a no fail policy. Regardless of their level of performance kids can keep progressing from one year to the next, even if they have been diagnosed as at risk of not having basic skills.

The Year 10 Certificate is an out-dated measure that few pay any attention to. I mean, if we must have these tests, let’s use them to identify students who need additional help before they can progress. Let’s draw a line in the sand and have a level of performance that is a prerequisite for the HSC. Not just turning up to the exam!

Years 9-11 have become lost years when students realise that poor performance is tolerated. These should be the most important formative years that set up our kids for success at higher education or encourages them to take a different path into trade schools and apprenticeships. Unfortunately, they are largely wasted as they wait for Year 12 (when they will put in some effort)…….three terms of sprint towards the exam that is held up as a shining example to the other states.

Read the full article here


What’s the point of testing, unless there is a reason to perform? 

(Picture: Exams, from http://flickr.com/photos/cristic/359572653/)

EduBlogs Tutorial


This afternoon I’m guest lecturing at a local uni to a group of graduate teacher trainees – a tutorial session
on Edublogs and although they’ll have an Edublogs manual, I was wondering what else what be of use to those about to launch into begin a new way of life!

I think the best advice will usually come from people who write about their experiences as they begin to blog. You can learn from their experiences…….Find some soul-mates, it’s much more fun!

So I went back into my Google Reader and searched through past posts from my favourite bloggers and came up with:

Then there’s lots of additional information from Support Blogging wiki and the edublogger site itself…

Australia will have technology enriched learning environments…….

So says The Joint Ministerial Statement on Information and Communications Technologies in Australian Education and Training: 2008-2011. The sentiments expressed in this document must give us some heart. They are unequivocal statements that leave no doubt as to the direction that schools must move over the next few years.

Technologies are powerful tools for education and training.  They are enabling the transformation of the curriculum and changing the way learners and educators operate, learn and interact.  Technologies provide the potential to enable access to: nationally consistent curriculum; collaborative communication and knowledge building tools; flexible and distance learning opportunities; seamless transition of students and information within and between institutions; engaging learning materials; online services and repositories of knowledge”.

No mistaking that is there? Or this,

Educators will enhance twenty first century student learning outcomes by effectively and ethically incorporating ICT into their teaching and learning programmes and methods and collaborating in the creation of flexible learning environments”.

And again,

“Learners are active participants in knowledge creation and will engage with state of the art tools which enable new forms of learning, collaboration, innovation and communication”.

These are not wishy-washy statements. The full text of this document is available from the AICTEC website and it makes heartening reading for those of us who have been struggling with this for the last 10 years or so, without such overt government support. Many schools who have forged ahead with technology enrichment programs will, perhaps, no longer be seen as oddities in the educational landscape.

Now I await equivalent thinking and publication of statements about assessment techniques that fit the visions outlined in this document. How can we continue to justify more and more common, paper-based testing? Interesting times ahead I think.

I dig this ………..

Some bloggers write in such quantity and so often they make you feel so inadequate! One such gentleman fills up my RSS Reader every day, and I have to be honest, I don’t read all of his posts ……..my mistake. Trawling back through some posts I had skipped, I came across this and have now spent the day with it. Miguel expresses this all so well, but I’m going to rewrite some of it here for those that don’t follow his posts. And I’ll try to explain why this got me so excited.

Miguel said

Thinkfinity.org offers a rich variety of online lesson plans, online manipulatives or interactive tools, and content. But how can you easily manage and share these resources with your students and colleagues? Learn how to use a social bookmarking tool like Diigo.com–or Del.icio.us–to create audio narrated slide shows, add comments, and post comments online.

and not having got involved with Diigo, other than signing up, I initially skipped over it. Today, as I’m in the middle of collecting resources and writing activities for next term’s Science unit on Human Physiology & Disease, it had a bit more relevance.

So I went to Thinkfinity.org and used their search tools to see what was available and hey presto, thanks to one of their partners, ScienceNetLinks,

science-search  netlinks


I have bookmarked some very extensive E-Sheets; created a list for my class and converted it into a slideset, which I can publish to my wiki on our SharePoint Portal. As a first go, I’m pretty happy with this……. just need to add some of my own stuff now.

edsheet I’ll resist the addition of voice instructions, but I dare say that others with more cultured speak, may get right into it.So now I’ll add some addition materials into the slideset and that will present high quality learning materials to my students, in a way I hadn’t thought of.

Next I think I’ll build some resources for other subject areas to show them what Diigo can do for them. There are tutorials provided on Miguel’s wiki site ….go look.

So thanks Miguel for writing so much, so often and for sharing.

Kangaroos or Leather Shorts and Flugelhorns


The first graph in the document I referred to in my previous short post seems to confuse us with our yodeling counterparts where the “Hills are Alive”!

Fair go, one of the entries shown above surely must be a reference to us down under, but I’m not at all sure which one it is…or indeed which one I’d prefer it to be.

There are similar graphic masterpieces (amongst some of the most cluttered PowerPoints you’ll ever see at the PISA site itself, if you scroll all the way down to the Presentations area at the end, but I’m still not certain which is us.

Do we want to spend more to score higher in performance tests …or would we be better off spending the money on something else and accept that testing is flawed anyway? Mind you, with our Government policy on computers in schools at the moment, we should be able to shoot to the left in the 2009 graph!

But will we see an equivalent jump in our performance …..I doubt it, especially if most of the equipment does not see the light of day for lack of infrastructure and PD funding.

Graphic from Equipping Every Learner for 21st Century White Paper – Cisco