On Our Minds @ ScholasticOver at a blog I have not seen before, On our minds at Scholastic, they have published an interesting list of the decade’s ten big ideas for education.   I think it is a very helpful way of thinking about the changes of our era.

Some on their list are not in my focal area, and/or I am not sure I would have chosen them:  1. alternate paths to teaching; 5. charter schools; 6. a focus on adolescent literacy 9. it takes a village; and 10. the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But I am quite intrigued with the other five:

2. Transformative Technology — From interactive whiteboards to online education, 1-to-1 computing to eReaders, for the first time in the history of American education, classrooms are increasingly plugged in — and so are the students.

Regular readers know how important this is to me– and how enthusiastic I am not just about getting technology into the classrooms, but getting it into the hands of students, empowering them, engaging them, and respecting their powerful proficiency with technology as tools for their learning.  

3. and 4. Accountability — No matter where you stood in the debate on No Child Left Behind, it’s impossible to deny that this decade marked a new era with a shift toward reporting the results for every child in every school.

Data-Driven Instruction — Once we have data on every student, it’s easier to reach them quickly and to teach them better. Data is the new currency of 21st Century schools.

I lumped these together, and I want to say again here that a highly critical component of my view of 21st century education is the great value of data, and that we measure and use seriously the results that matter.   I am an advocate of more and more data for our work– the HSSSE, the CWRA, alumni surveys, MAP, and much more.  We have to be serious about our results, serious about collecting the results data that matter, and serious about using these data.

6. The Rise of Digital Content— By 2020, 95% of all knowledge will be a search term away — marking a game-changing move from static pages to dynamic, digitized content.


8. Books Are the New Black— In the decade that gave us Harry PotterTwilight and The DaVinci Code, the hottest accessory is definitely the book. And it’s impossible to deny the power that a single book can have on children’s feelings about reading. According to the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report, 74% of kids ages 5-17 say, “Reading Harry Potter has made me interested in reading other books.”

This is not actually a topic I have written upon very often, not a big theme of my view of 21st century education, but I couldn’t pass it over: I love to read, I love to see students read, I think reading widely and exuberantly is a great goal and aim and vehicle of learning.

Now what is missing?  My list would have included at least three other alternatives.

1. The 21st century skills movement.  How is this missing? It is so large and so significant a trend and idea.   Myself I would credit Tom Friedman, Daniel Pink, and Tony Wagner for their compelling writing, which has outlined how enormously significant the need is for powerful 21st century skills for all of our students.   But there are other significant contributors to this also, especially the Partnership for 21st century skills.

2.  An embrace of real-world problem solving skills as essential to learning.    With the internet, students are closer to the data and the issues and the information of actual, current, issues and challenges of our world today than they have ever been before.   This virtual proximity makes it much more possible to engage, motivate, and challenge students to grow in their skills and understanding by confronting real world problems and then working to answer them effectively and powerfully.   It is also more possible than ever before for students to not just provide answers, but to publish them and make them available for review by real-world audiences, which is the best kind of report writing, that which has a real-world audience to review and respond.

3.  Innovative High Schools “redefining excellence for the 21st century.” The phrase is Tony Wagner’s, the schools that are doing so, and really reinventing secondary education, include High Tech High and New Technology High School, and they are very exciting for those of us who believe high schools are amazing opportunities to engage students in problem-solving education with high standards and serious results.