The theme of 21st century skills is high on the priority list of things to discuss and understand. In my experiences with professional development and continuing education, the idea of change and closing the global achievement gap is a hot topic. Education is changing, but very slowly and we need to help that change along or we are going to be sorry we didn’t prepare our students better for the skills they need now and for those we are unaware of in the future.

The arts can be a huge piece of the solution to get students from compliance to creativity, from rigidity to innovation. Over the course of the next few weeks, I hope we can discuss this topic more and more online. Join the conversation by adding your own comments and insights!

To begin, I’d like to offer you some of my notes from a professional development day my district sponsored for our entire staff. Mike Wasta of outlined for us the differences between education yesterday and today:

Yesterday / Today
Industrialized / Economy Knowledge Society
Compliance / Creativity
Efficiency / Efficiency
Strict Boundaries / Porous Boundaries
Success is possible with limited skills / Success is required with high skill levels
Opportunities are local/regional / Opportunities are global
Stable / Continuously changing

“In the beginning” schools were modeled after factories. Those privileged students were expected to memorize facts and figures in order to show their smarts and do well for themselves in life. Now, our job as educators is quite different. We are expected not only to teach ALL students regardless, we need to take responsibility for them if they don’t learn. But the biggest challenge is that the traditional school model doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Our students need to be taught another layer of skills.

Wasta is not the only person from whom these ideas are heard. Daniel Pink, a best-selling author and speaker on business transformation and Tony Wagner, an education consultant have authored books about the state of our country at this time and the part education plays in preparing our students for the workforce. And of course there is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization that advocates for the readiness of children in the 21st century. We will be looking at their work in future blogs.

Amidst it all, there is truth (and hope) in how arts education and integration can not only help, but teach some of these skills we are finding necessary for our young people. People like Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland have done research on this, showing the intrinsic skills that studying the arts can instill.

I hate to admit it, but I often find myself teaching in that industrialized way. Through these blogs, I hope to come to an understanding of why and discover ways to change. It is my hope that your comments, ideas and insights will add to this journey.

Next Blog (due out on Saturday, February 9, 2010) – Workforce Preparedness

Make a Comment – We want to hear from you. What are your thoughts on this topic? What insights do you have to offer to the discussion? Comments are welcomed and encouraged.