NC develops skills

Partnership for 21st Century Skills

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley announced last week the creation of a new public/private educational initiative to help students and teachers improve their information and communication technology skills, among other things.

The governor’s office will devote money and personnel in developing the state’s Center for 21st Century Skills program, which is designed to promote a new model for teaching and learning.

Helping the state promote the model is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a 20-member consortium of mostly technology companies, education groups, teachers’ unions, and others that was formed about two and a half years ago.

“The partnership has been developing tools and resources online for policymakers, for educators and for administrators on what are 21st century skills, why are they so important, and how do we begin integrating them into the way that we teach and into the way we write education policy,” said Karen Bruett, who is president of the partnership and Dell’s director of education and community initiatives.

The partnership is focusing not only on technology skills, but also critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, the ability to work in teams, and the ability to be a self-directed learner. Those skills are needed to address the modern work world where students will have anywhere from 12 to 15 different jobs in their lifetimes, she said.

“We need students who come out of school prepared to be able to change and adapt and a lot of that is going to depend on these 21st century skills,” she said. “So it’s not so much we want to teach them new things, but we want to teach the core subjects in a different way.”

She said the partnership had been looking for several states to embrace and implement the tools, resources, and recommendations developed by the partnership. Officials from North Carolina, which she said has been a leader in education, will help identify areas within the state, including policy, curriculum, and teacher development, and then begin to systematically integrate. This year, the partnership hopes another four or five states will develop something similar.

She said technology shouldn’t be taught in isolation but can be incorporated into core subjects to develop these broader skills. For example, teaching and learning in geography can incorporate geographic information systems and satellite mapping tools.

She said that the partnership will have a representative on whatever planning committee Easley forms for this particular initiative. She said Dell is also the first member company to provided $50,000 to support North Carolina’s initiative.

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