March 5, 2009

Which Skills Matter?

Two blog posts hit me over the head today to help me clarify some things I've been thinking about.

First up, Doug Johnson asking,  Are they really 21st century skills?

"I have always been skeptical that society or schools actually want students who are capable of critical thinking. Who are information literate. Who are genuinely creative. These scary people threaten the status quo and may lead a better class of legislators, CEOs, and school administrators."

To bring things further down to earth another Doug, Doug Noon, describes his successful experiment with Free and Voluntary Reading.  

"This year, everyone in the class reads what they want to read, and they read without interruption for 30-40 minutes each day. They tell me about their books when I go around the room asking how it’s going. I write down what we talk about. They read short passages quietly to me. They write in journals about their books. They meet with partners or in small groups, and they give oral “book reports” written on sticky notes. They make book recommendations to each other. They read at home and before school without being told to, and they tell me they love to read. I even saw one of my students reading a book walking down the hall the other day. It’s going viral."

What's the first thing people say when they come upon an adult who stumbles over reading? They say that you mean to tell me you went through twelve years of school and you can't even read?  All the "21st Century Skills" Doug J. mentioned build upon that one solid foundation.  So do all the critical thinking and questioning skills we (should) value.  That's the first skill we need to work on and Doug N. has found the best way to do it.

By letting them have the time and the freedom and the materials to just read.

Or as Doug N. says:

"When we do the right things, the people who stand to profit most are the kids."

Thanks Dougs.

(image cc "school friends")