What’s the holdup?

Stacey Schultz
Dec 14, 2018 · 4 min read
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What’s the holdup of widespread innovation in education?

We’ve all heard it — the hype around 21st-century skills. These skills refer to the importance of deeper learning as well as the development of social skills and emotional intelligence. While they are part of the conversation, it’s often difficult to balance the integration meaningfully within schools. Since the early 2000s, there has been widespread research around the need for change in the classroom when integrating technology. To this day, however, widespread changes cannot be seen. So, what’s the holdup in supporting schools to make the shifts necessary for our 21st-century learner?

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The jobs of the future are different than the jobs of today. Image from Creative Commons

What’s the research saying?

“Students, Not Stuff” addresses how we often limit our students’ experiences in schools. Richardson goes on to say that integrating technology into the classroom can allow them to engage in things they are interested in or passionate about. The article also addresses the need for expanding the way schools select technology to support student learning experiences. And it discusses the need for making decisions about learning and technology beyond the test. Richardson says:

[W]e must be willing to consider that in a world full of access to knowledge and information, it may be more important to develop students who can take advantage of that knowledge when they need it than to develop students who memorize a slice of information that schools offer in case they might need it someday.

In this age of technology, it doesn’t make sense to assess students on their ability to memorize information. Instead, we should assess them on their ability to apply their knowledge to new situations.

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Students must now be able to apply what they have learned to a variety of situations. Image from Creative Commons

Education for Life and Work expands on this idea, outlining research conducted by the National Research Committee and other groups to define and make recommendations on 21st-century skills. When discussing their recommendations they outlined some challenges. One was how assessments were not shifting to meet the needs of the 21st-century student. They recognized that developing assessments and aligning curriculum would take research, investment, and time. Additionally, teachers would need training to build capacity. In the book, Recommendation 9 states: “As states and test developers begin to create new assessment systems…they should devote significant attention to 21st-century competencies…”

The need for a shift in assessment strategies stood out to me as being a systemic holdup in making changes in the classroom. School leaders and districts are reluctant to make the instructional development shifts needed, because the current tests are not aligned to the new skills. Schools are often tied to test scores as being the greatest indicator of success, so they tend to focus on teaching to the test, instead of innovating.

Pockets of Innovation

The time is now. Students are quickly adapting to meet the changes of their environment, whether we as educators keep up with their needs or not. We have the opportunity to partner and open the doors to deeper learning and thinking by leveraging technology in exciting ways. Join our community to see how others are making changes in their classroom. Let’s learn and grow together.

Students First, Stuff Second by Will Richardson. Educational Leadership March 2013 | Volume 70 | Number 6

Technology-Rich Learning Pages 10–14

Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills, Center for Education, Board on Testing and Assessment, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council. 2013. Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13398.

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