It is easy to say that we want our schools to adopt a 21st century learning program; it is only a little bit harder to describe what that program looks like. The real work, we all know, is in the execution. Ken Kay and Val Greenhill, the team who led (Ken was Founding President) the Partnership for 21st century skills (P21) recognized this a couple years ago, and shifted the focus of their important work from calling for this transformation and from describing a program to, instead, supporting the leaders who are executing it in their districts and schools, in a new organization called EdLeader21.
In doing so, they are working with, supporting and learning from, an assemblage of some of the very most interesting and exciting school superintendents in the country, including Pam Moran, Jared Cotton, Jim Merrill, and, right here in Tucson, Mary Kamerzall. With the benefit of this experience, they have now written a very valuable, very informative book, about which the only significant criticism is that it leaves the reader with an angst for more– more such information, more detail, specifics and examples: when is the sequel coming? I’ll throw in a few notes here about the areas I most hope to hear more about.
Full disclosure time: I enjoyed greatly my one year experience with edleader21, and have been an advocate for that organization. I know Ken and Val personally, and am delighted to be neighbors of a sort with them here in Tucson (in fact, I am writing this in a central Tucson Starbucks, and I keep looking over my shoulder in case one or the other of them walks up behind me). The complimentary copy of the book I am reviewing was sent to me as a kind courtesy on their part, with a warm and generous inscription.
Ken and I co-presented at NAIS in February, 2011, in a session entitled 21st century learning at NAIS Schools: Leading and Networking for Progress. (My own remarks for that session were a slightly condensed version of a post I published also in February, 2011, 7 Steps for Leading in 21st century Learning.)
This new book expands upon a series Ken published last summer (2011) on Edutopia, a 7 part series on becoming a 21st century school district.”
Ken and Val’s first step is, of course, the essential and universal first step: “Adopt your vision” (just as my version of the seven steps commences with “Develop your vision (and Keep developing it.”) The discussion here is rich and invigorating; it will energize readers.
There is no single version for 21st century student success that is the same in every school or district. Lasting success always comes down to leaders like you. For the vision to make an actual difference in students’ lives, it must come from and be embraced by the leaders of the school and district. A vision that is born of genuine, authentic, passionate leadership is never simple, never cookie-cutter, and never easy. But it is necessary.
Especially resonant for me is this quote from Virginia Beach Superintendent Jim Merrill:
I have finally found the thing in education that truly motivates me and it’s this 21st century education initiative. This is why I am supposed to be a leader in this field.
The overview of the 8 key “perspectives” which are bringing so many to this appreciation for the importance of a shift in teaching and learning is excellent; I learned a great deal. There is a powerful graph showing the change in workforce categories coming into our century, and good stats from a 2010 report that more than half of companies surveyed do measure the 4Cs in their performance review.
John Bransford, the renowned learning expert: is helpfully quoted:
in the US today we tell our kids the same thing 100 times and on the 101st time, we ask them if they can remember what we told them the first hundred times when in the 21st century the coin of the realm is if they can look at material they have never seen before and know what to do with it.
This first step/chapter, by itself, would be highly worthwhile reading for boards, education students, and others. (more…)