Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Yesterday's PD--21st Century Skills

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a PD session with Alison Zmuda with my English department colleagues.  (Tomorrow I'm with my Canadian and World Studies colleagues).  The topic of conversation was 21st century skills.

I thought that many interesting ideas were brought up.  For example, Zmuda stated that 21st century skills are a reinterpretation of skills from the ancient world.  Skills that were important "back then", including effective communication, critical and creative thinking, and collaboration, are still important today.  What has changed, though, is the way people do these skills.  To explain, people need to be cognizant of the variety of ways to communicate and how to effectively utilize and manage these ways (tools) of communication.  Additionally, critical and creative thinking is even more important today, I would argue, because of the vast amounts of information that we are exposed to on a daily basis.  Collaboration has also changed.  We have new tools to help us collaborate.  No longer do we need to be sitting in the same room with our collaborators.

Another interesting idea was the belief that learning needs to be personalized.  As educators, I think that this is so important.  If students have an interest in and a connection to their learning, they will be more successful.  The learning has meaning for them.  I also think that it is interesting that we are encouraged to personalize learning for our students, but oftentimes, teachers aren't afforded the same opportunity.  We are told what we need to be learning in order to become better teachers.  Many teachers wish that they could be supported in developing their craft.  They also wish that they could be afforded the time to pursue their own personal learning.  Fortunately, I have the right balance.  I am afforded the opportunity to participate in PD that is important to makng ODSS even better and I get to participate in PD that is of interest to me and supported by my school and board.  (I'm sure I will have a few blog posts about my PLP experience!)

Zmuda posed a thought-provoking question (paraphrased), what does the Ontario Secondary School Diploma signify?  I find this question very challenging to answer.  If you listen to some folks, the OSSD isn't worth the paper it is written on.  They argue that students are simply pushed through the school system to satisfy a government initiative to graduate x-number of students.  I wonder if the reason these people don't value the OSSD is because students aren't graduating with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in today's world.  This is where I struggle.  We know what skills we want our students to internalize, but how do we teach our students these skills?


  1. Some of the discussions I've followed about 21st Century skills have also suggested that the change in those skills has forced educators to re-think cheating. Many actions that used to be seen as cheating, are now viewed (by some) as valid ways of gathering information and finding answers.

    I think that both reasons you give for people not valuing the OSSD are valid. I know I have mixed feelings about it. I don't think the piece of paper itself proves much. But it is necessary and seemingly increasingly so, even though there is an expectation that people will have to do much more on the job learning. Does/should the OSSD really suggest that someone is an accomplished/expert learner, rather than someone who has found all the answers?

    Looking forward tentatively towards tomorrow's PD session...

  2. Your comments about cheating reasonate with me. I am struggling with allowing students to collaborate on tasks, but am concerned when they hand in almost identical work. It makes it difficult to discern who is actually responsible for the demonstration of learning (or not learning). I think this is part of the problem. Can two (or more) people not come to the same learning? Is that collaboration?

    I'm not sure what the OSSD should represent. I think the diploma is simply proof that a person has accomplished a minimum level of knowledge and skills. There is a vast differene between a person who earned the OSSD by getting fifties and a person who is earning level fours.