Learning & the Brain post-conference

February 19, 2011 Comments Off on Learning & the Brain post-conference

So, the conference is over, but there are a couple of session for which you could pay extra to attend.  We picked one on actual classroom skills that we thought would be good.  We were wrong…

Teaching and Learning 21st Century Skills

Bob Pearlman, BEE
[email protected]

PowerPoint slides at http://www.bobpearlman.org/learningandbrain.htm

Objectives: gains a conceptual understanding of the best practices in 21c learning: project based learning, assessment, technology, learning environments.

(And now some editorializing: I paid $200 extra to come to this post-conference session on how to teach 21st century skills.  I was not expecting that the first hour and a quarter would be taken up by having the attendees pass around a microphone and introduce themselves.  The first few tables were short and sweet, but as we went further along, people started taking more time to describe their schools, what they were already doing with technology, and how they’d cured autism in kids [I sh*t you not]. This is not the way to keep a room of 100 educators who’d just spent the last three days hearing from experts in the fields of neurology and education interested. I played Angry Birds.)

Best way of learning about 21c learning: take a learning tour of schools where it’s been successfully implemented. See the kids doing the work then debrief to understand what’s going on there.

The Henry Ford: oninnovation.com -> interviews with modern innovators (Gates, Musk, Woz).

Partnership for 21c skills: http://www.21stcenturyskills.org has a framework for 21st century learning.

We must fuse the three r’s with the four c’s: critical thinking & problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity & innovation.

Exercise: List 5 most personally important 21c skills:

  • Research
  • Critical differentiation (authority of sources)
  • Presentation
  • Self-help in the technological sphere
  • Writing/communication

In the table group, choose top 5:

  • Research/Questioning
  • Critical evaluation
  • Information/media literacy (ethics dimension)
  • Collaboration/leadership
  • Communication

Other groups came up with:

  • Confidence (self-directedness)
  • Awareness of the environment
  • Adaptability
  • Socio-emotional skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Global awareness
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Creativity/imagination
  • Ethical & moral reasoning and judgement in collaboration
  • Metacognitive thinking
  • Networking/outreach
  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • Technical competence
  • Cross-disciplinary thinking

Which ones can be assessed, and understood by students?

  • Communication
  • Environmental impact
  • Ethical and moral judgement
  • Collaboration
  • Media literacy
  • Problem solving
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Technical competence

I asked how some of these are any different from 20th century student expectations.  They are a systematic approach: assessed and embedded in curriculum.

Assess what students value
Napa Tech:

  • Technological literacy
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking
  • Oral communication
  • Written communication
  • Career preparation
  • Citizenship and ethics
  • Curricular literacy (content standards)


  • Communication
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Global awareness and cultural competence
  • Information and technology literacy
  • Quantitative literacy
  • Scientific literacy
  • Personal responsibility & development

***It’s quite possible that the second half of this session was the most amazing workshop ever, where sunshine, rainbows and unicorns sprouted from every table and each participant got their own leprechaun to take back to the classroom who would help them transform all they do in the classroom into standards-assessed project-based-learning, but I will never know.  I left.  Don’t waste my time, particularly if you’ve just told me that your entire presentation and all the links therein are available on your website without having to sit through an hour and a quarter of people rambling through self-promoting introductions.  Just don’t.

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