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August 23, 2006
Section: Opinion

21st-century teachers will need new vocabularies, resources

Intel’s chairman, Craig Barrett, in an address to the Education Writers Association on June 2, said, “The blunt truth is: The new global economy is technology-based.” But innovation is also important. As Vishva Dixit, vice president for research at Genentech, says, “Nothing will kill innovation faster than trying to put it on a timeline.”
In addition to meeting the standards set by the state of Ohio, Stark County schools are working to incorporate 21st-century skills into the curriculum. As the statements by Barrett and Dixit indicate, this is a challenging endeavor with lots of new vocabulary and many new things for educators to master.

The North Central Regional Educational Library produced a succinct list of these skills in four categories: digital-age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication and high productivity. Willard Daggett, president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, observes that now many students learn these skills outside of the classroom and the challenge for educators to incorporate these skills into all curricula so that students have the necessary technological skills to succeed.


Educators need to know about motes and wireless sensor networks, enviromatics, grid computing, DNA computers, nanotechnology and nanobiotechnology, molecular imaging, mechatronics, biomechatronics and language translation technology, to name just a few of the new ideas that surround us.

Having said all of the above, what will instruction look like with 21st-century skills incorporated into the curricula? A demonstration can be found at:

This Web site from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has published 1,400 full courses — almost all of its graduate and undergraduate courses. Many of the courses include most of the lectures on video available for free access by anyone with a computer. The lectures are chock-full of up-to-date information, and the requirements for students are fascinating. The introductory biology course requires that students find solutions to professor-designed application problems during the semester. Optional labs that accompany the course allow students the opportunity to study their own DNA.

At this Web site, links are provided to 156 courses at Chinese universities and courses in France, Japan, the United States (Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Tufts University and Utah State University) and Vietnam.

This open courseware project is a “large-scale, Web-based electronic publishing initiative funded jointly by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MIT, and generous support from the Ab Initio software company.”

Thinking about an educational system with access to open courseware opens new possibilities. Teachers and students in the K-16 system can access this courseware to supplement what they already know. School systems that cannot afford to upgrade their libraries or available course materials at a rate fast enough to keep up with the explosion of knowledge can direct students to open courseware sites to supplement the information available without worry that the content is flawed. The comment part of the MIT Web site makes mention of many ways that this site is being used around the world. And more possibilities exist.


For those with degrees, accessing this open courseware would allow them to keep current in their specialty field. Or, some of us might just like to learn more about the new knowledge available.

Allan November conducted the Stark County administrators’ inservice on Aug. 1. His presentation gave us a clear idea of what teaching in the upcoming years will look like. He suggested that administrators need to be checking that students are using multiple Web sites to access and evaluate information.

As an example, information from a variety of colleges and universities on college study skills is available at:

Listening to podcasts enables the learner to quickly expand knowledge, and November suggested easy access by registering for a bloglines account at:

The 21st-century teacher will teach using podcasts and will check assignments using bloglines. Students will interact with their teacher or professor by using bloglines. An example can be found for AP calculus at November’s Web site:

Adrienne O’Neill, Ed.D., is president of the Stark Education Partnership.

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