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21st Century Excellence

For five years I have been espousing the importance of embedding the use of technology, and more importantly, 21st century skills into my teachers' lesson planning and instruction. I have incorporated the use of such web 2.0 tools as blogs, wikis, digital storytelling, and Google Docs into my own professional practices, and I have modeled these tools for teachers.

Additionally, I have provided teachers with inservice opportunities, books, articles, and websites in order to educate them on how to move their teaching practices into the new century (although it's not so new anymore). I have been working with teachers in groups and individually to help them change.

So, how far have the teachers come in the last five years? Unfortunately, not nearly far enough.

A few teachers have truly embraced the change. They are the pioneers who are using web 2.0 tools to increase their students' critical thinking, to provide authentic learning experiences in their classrooms, and to develop self-directed learners.

A few others have done the complete opposite - absolutely nothing to change their teaching practices.

Unfortunately, the majority of the teachers in my school have given a lot of lip-service to the need to change their professional practices, explaining how they are so interested in teaching differently, yet I never really see anything different taking place in their classrooms. They talk the talk and that's all.

So what is a principal to do? I passionately believe that we have the responsibility to teach differently than the teachers did when we were in school. This is a very different world in which our students live and will soon be working, and it is our duty and responsibility to prepare them properly to be successful.

As I plan for the upcoming school year, I have come to the realization that the only way for me to foster change in my school is to tie the use of technology and 21st century skills to the teachers' formative and summative evaluations. A teacher will not receive an "Excellent" rating in my school unless he or she can demonstrate an effective use of technology in a 21st century context.

This idea has been percolating in my head for a couple of years, and I feel that the time has come to make this official. This will not be a surprise or a "gotcha" experience for the teachers. I plan on clearly delineating my expectations at the very beginning of the school year, and, if the teachers have been paying attention for the last five years, they will not be surprised.

The message will be loud and clear: An "Excellent" teacher in the 21st century is no longer utilizing 20th century instructional practices.

- Dave Sherman

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