There is growing consensus among the business community and educators that our schools must sharpen their focus to help students develop the skills needed to thrive in the rapidly changing 21st century economy:
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Effective Oral and Written Communication
- Collaboration, Agility and Adaptability
- Accessing and Analyzing Information
- Initiative and Entrepreneurship
- Curiosity and Imagination
Beyond the welfare of individual students, any local economy that seeks to thrive in the 21st century needs a population in possession of these skills.
Development of these skills requires a shift away from the production line methods of education that have been in place for the past 100 years to new models that focus less on rote memorization of content. Instead, schools must create opportunities to develop and practice these 21st century skills across all grade levels. While the instructional practices that foster these skills have been in scattered use for more than a decade now, schools and districts hoping to make a bona fide transition are often ill equipped to do so.
To transition to a new model, teachers and schools will need to adopt new methodologies that allow students to work in teams to explore real problems and learn how to get better at doing so. They will also need strategies and methods to move organizations which are often resistant to change– a transition that is made more difficult by the inherent isolation of both teachers and schools.
Delay in making this transition has very real costs. Delay makes it harder to retain and attract teachers with the skills and enthusiasm to facilitate this transformation– experienced teachers will leave for schools and communities where their skills are both recognized and welcomed, new teachers will look elsewhere from the start. Additionally, a region that fails to develop the talents of its population will not be able to compete economically and, over time, will find itself with fewer resources with which to make the transition. Most importantly, delay robs today’s students of the chance to develop the skills we know we have the ability to instill.
Within the Milwaukee area there are a number of schools that are moving forward to develop a 21st century skill set in their students. Encouragingly, there are also a number of resources which can be leveraged to develop the sets of skills teachers and schools will need to speed this transition.
Our aim is to connect teachers and schools with resources and expertise, and enable them to share information in a way that allows both teachers and schools to transition faster. The immediate goal is to build a critical mass of schools in the area with the knowledge and know-how to effectively develop 21st century skills in their students. These schools will serve to demonstrate that a transformation is possible and provide a pathway that makes it easier for others to follow.
If you, or someone you may know, are interested in supporting this initiative with personal energy, introductions to key individuals to help move us forward, or funding we would appreciate an opportunity to speak with you.