Common Core and 21st Century Skills

By Fox, Sean B. | AMLE Magazine, January 2015 | Go to article overview

Common Core and 21st Century Skills


Fox, Sean B., AMLE Magazine


Last year, my inclusion co-teacher and I were asked to implement the New York State Teaching Modules associated with the Common Core English/ language arts curriculum. Simultaneously we would pilot a district-wide laptop initiative centered on incorporating elements of the Framework for 21st Century Learning into the curriculum at our middle school on Long Island, New York.

We realized that bridging the Common Core Standards curriculum with the foundational elements of 21st century skills would indelibly alter our inclusion classroom experience.

Before beginning the school year, we became familiar with the essentials of a contemporary, technology-centered classroom. Courses in blended learning and the flipped classroom helped provide some footing, and research into the use of Google Docs (www.docs.google.com) and the newest educational software bolstered our understanding. Expanding our knowledge base to include more technical applications such as screencasting and back-channeling broadened our scope of how we envisioned a "digital" classroom.

Ironically, experimentation and induction helped solidify our own understanding of these multimodal concepts-the same methods of learning that are central to the New York State Teaching Modules (www.engageny.org/english-language-arts) and 21st century skills (www.p21.org).

Democratizing instruction

When implementing any new classroom initiative, it is important to remember the value of troubleshooting. Our "vision" of the classroom and the reality were quite different, at least at the onset. Fortunately, my preliminary research prepared me for that reality.

As Aaron Sams, one of the leading educators behind the flipped classroom, related in his December/ January 2014 Educational Leadership article, "...time has been the constant in our schools [and] content mastery has depended on the amount of learning that takes place in that fixed period of time." Operating a classroom within these fixed parameters was certainly a hurdle, and flipping the classroom presented a possibility for overcoming it.

Establishing Google Drive as our central platform created a "portable" learning environment. Students were able to transport their work through various Internet-based outlets. However, flipping the classroom still presented challenges. Some students did not have access to technology outside school, and others had difficulty viewing online assignments through certain operating systems.

Instead of becoming frustrated about the roadblocks to seamless implementation, we designated some students as "technology leaders" for the classroom. These students-all volunteers- were assigned jobs and charged with meeting several days a week to help diagnose problems with the software. They met with teachers and students, created alternate lessons, and ultimately redirected the curriculum to stay on course.

Endorsing Collaboration

Educating parents is essential when taking on such a broad curriculum overhaul. At back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences, we directed families to the class website, a blog, their student's e-portfolio, and teacher contact information. Also, parents and guardians were taught step-by-step how to access their child's Google Drive account. This encouraged them to open a virtual door into the classroom they may hear about but never actually see.

Because technology and media use inside and outside the school can be concerning for parents and guardians, we communicated with them throughout the year, ensuring they were on-board and involved in the education process with their students. …

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