Personal Learning Network and 21st Century Skills

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The 21st Century Skills that educators and students alike should strive for:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-direction
  • Social and Cross-cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility
  • Global Awareness
  • Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy
  • Civic Literacy
  • Health Literacy
  • Environmental Literacy

The 21st Century Skills require a rethinking of the way we teach.  In order to be prepared for the workforce and/or college, students need a different skills set than what most schools are currently providing.  Society has evolved, and education is evolving with it.  Throughout past year, the concept of digital learners has been a recurring theme in my classroom.  Students not only learn differently than what we did, the professions that they will be in will require most, if not all, of the 21st Century Skills.  Students need to be able to take tools/concepts that they learn and apply them to new situations.  That’s what we as educators need to do to challenge them – present them with situations where they are stretched.  Failure is a result of Trying.  Success is a result of Failing/Trying until you Succeed.

Keeping up on education, your area of expertise, and the 21st Century Skills used to be a challenge.  One of the most important things a teacher can do is start and maintain a Personal Learning Network (PLN).  If you haven’t heard that term yet, you will be inundated with it soon.  Your PLN is your link to information, contacts, a network of global colleagues, etc.

A good start to a PLN is with iGoogle (TeacherTube Video: iGoogle and Building a Personal Learning Network).  Create an iGoogle page and add an education tab, a technology tab, and even curriculum specific labeled tabs.  iGoogle will automatically add popular gadgets to your tabs, and you can add more to personalize it.

After you get your feet wet, a possible next step is to join teacher networks like Classroom 2.0.  There are a plethora of teachers/organizations who are sharing ideas in education and in technology in education.

Finally, join Twitter.  I used to be avidly anti-Twitter . . . until I found out how teachers are using Twitter to exchange ideas, network, and connect.  If you want the latest, greatest info on education, the best source is from the experts in the field.  Twitter is the tool educators are using to do that.  Joe Dale‘s blog Twitter for Teachers has some video clips that make the whole Twitter thing clear.

There are several tools available to manage Twitter so you don’t get overwhelmed and lose yourself in Geekdom for hours on end.  I highly recommend TweetDeck for your pc/mac – very functional desktop to manage your social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkIn, etc.  I use both TweetDeck and Hootsuite Lite on my iPhone.  While TweetDeck is preferable, Hootsuite allows me to email links to someone I know who doesn’t use Twitter.  Once you get really rolling, you can peruse Top 20 Sites to Improve Your Twitter Experience and Your Favorite Education Twitter Hashtags

Just setting up a Twitter account doesn’t quite get you where you want to be without knowing what to do and who to get information from.  Shelly Terrell put together an amazing training video: How to Build A PLN Using Twitter.

From there, it’s up to you.  Be the model for your students.  Don’t expect them to try anything that you aren’t willing to try yourselves.  Don’t just Talk the Talk – Walk the Walk.  Move into the 21st Century with your students.

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