What is it we want a 21st century learner to learn?

I am aligning and mapping the seventh grade curriculum to the new AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Using the Understanding by Design model, I am first examining the standards, determining enduring understandings, and formulating essential questions to develop an integrated curriculum map of information literacy skills and the content curriculum. I have decided to use the nine common beliefs of the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner as my enduring understandings. I believe these nine beliefs encompass the goals of the four standards and the numerous elements relating to skills, dispositions in action, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies under each standard.AASL beliefs

Enduring Understandings [Common Beliefs (AASL)]

Reading is a window to the world.
Inquiry provides a framework for learning.
Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.
Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.
Equitable access is a key component for education.
The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
Learning has a social context.
School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.

I am currently working with this version of essential questions for my media program and information literacy instruction for the seventh grade:

Essential Questions

What information do I need?
Where can I find the information I need?
What do I need to do with the information I find?
How is the information I found useful to me?
How do I critically evaluate information?
How do I research efficiently and effectively?
How do I evaluate the end result of my information search?
How do I give credit to my sources?
How will I record the information that I find?
How do I chose books for my own interests and growth?
How do I use technology to communicate my new knowledge?

Of course, this design necessitates the collaboration with teachers with their own essential questions for students to answer for just-in-time learning of the skills, dispositions, responsibilities, and self-assessment of the 21st century learner. This mapping project is consuming my thoughts lately and the implications it may have in my school and the resulting impact to student achievement. My district is currently involved in a 21st century learner professional development program called TeAch 21 with media specialists participating in MediA 21 (the “A” referring to Academics). I believe technology should be integrated throughout the curriculum and not taught or used in isolation. Information literacy goes hand-in-hand with using technology efficiently and effectively in the 21st century. While reading Dangerously Irrelevant, I came across a series of posts. (Birth of a question and paradigm shift and Curriculum 2.0 – Building buy-in and shared understanding) by Justin Medved and Dennis Harter. They ask questions about curriculum design and technology:

What if this same “best practice” [UbD] approach could be applied to the way technology was used and talked about in the classroom? If this was good curricular design practice, why should technology and thinking curriculum be any different? What if that same approach was used in the way we looked at connecting technology and learning across the curriculum? What if there were only a few manageable questions that even the most tech-resistant teacher could see value in?

They go on to formulate five essential questions for a curriculum focused on “the thinking that was needed for the 21st century learner, rather than the technology.”

How do you know information is true?
How do you communicate effectively?
What does it mean to be a global citizen?
How do I learn best?
How can we be safe?

I think Medved and Harter are really media specialists at heart. Their formula of essential questions is the essence of what an effective media program should be. Technology and Information Literacy go hand-in-hand in the 21st century. In the words of Medved and Harter, “who is going to teach these skills?…Everyone is.”

Kris Woods
M.A. Teasley Middle School
Canton, GA
Cross-posted to MediA 21 at TMS
American Association of School Librarians. (2007). ALA/AASL standards for the 21st century learner. Retrieved February 13, 2008, from http://www.ala.org/ala/aasl/aaslproftools/learningstandards/standards.cfm

Posted on February 13, 2008, in Ideas, Information Literacy, Reflection, Standards, Technology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Your work with media literacy and library really mesh well with what we’ve been working on.

    It’s funny that you say Justin and I are media specialists at heart. In fact, I would say that it the world that is so media-laden now that any attempt to educate young people to do well in it, involves the skills you associate with media literacy. Critical evaluation of information, responsible use, effective communication. These are simply the skills to thrive in the 21st Century where once they were the domain of the media specialist.

    Great post and let’s keep in touch and collaborate further. We seem to be headed in the same direction!

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