21st Century Skills presented to school board

District needs-assessment upcoming

Andersen Elementary Principal Malinda Lansfeldt, along with other members of the 21st Century Learning Working Group made a presentation to the Independent School District 834 board at Thursday night’s meeting. The group has been looking in to the P21 Curriculum program to figure out ways to apply it to the district.

Lansfeldt cited her son as an example of the reason 21st century skills are important for students to learn. She showed a photo of her son and his friends at a sleepover connected to their laptops and working on mixing music.

“This is a photo of my son and his friends at a sleepover. It’s not the same as a sleepover I used to have when I was younger that’s for sure,” Lansfeldt said. “My son and his friends spend their time making music. My son has his own record label, he puts his music in a dropbox and gets immediate feedback from artists and producers all over the world. He has a contract and he makes money, too, at 99 cents a song. This is what 21st century learning is all about.”

The group said this example is representative of students who are growing up as digital natives in a world that becoming is smaller through technology and causes a need for students to enter into citizenship for a global society. Along with these changes employment opportunities continue to change with shifts to a service economy and growing importance of design, creativity, and innovation; as well as the constant changing nature of information and technology. The group wants to make sure that the district ensures success for students as they move forward.

“Work has changed over the years,” said another group member, Afton-Lakeland principal Tom Hobert. “Collaboration, communication and creativity are so important these days (for businesses), they’ve changed and now schools need to change too.”

Going forward the groups says the district needs to focus on fusing the traditional reading, writing and arithmetic skills with what they’re calling the eight C’s: critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation, curiosity, courageous leadership, career and life skills, and content learning. Hobert also emphasized that flexibility, adaptation, cross-cultural communication, and leadership and responsibility were important skills for students to learn as well, along with many other skills.

Fourteen states have adopted the 21st Century Learning curriculum and though Minnesota has not, many districts are engaging in this program. Lansfeldt told the board that test scores in these states, as well as student engagement, has been improved. The next steps include conducting a needs assessment of the district to determine what should to be improved to help students going forward. She also hopes that this needs assessment will help the board provide the public with a deeper understanding of what 21st century learning is all about.

“I think in such a fast-changing time we’ll have to see what needs to be done for our students and adapt as needs arise,” Lansfeldt said. “We’d also like to use the information to personalize learning more for our students as well.”

Sirid Kellerman, a parent involved in the group, said that the process and the group will continue going forward.

“We’ll continue to be involved for months or maybe years going forward and we’ll keep track of it as it evolves… in my personal opinion, I think that developing these skills can really translate across any number of positions and sets our students well on their way going forward.”