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Upgrading Education for the Global 21st Century

We've all seen the headlines: today's schools are not preparing the next generation for the workplace of the future. Tomorrow's professions do not yet exist today. Half the world's population was born after the Internet.

Schools today should be preparing students for the year 2030, plus or minus.

"Most schools, as I see it, are roughly going for 1985 - 1991," says Heidi Hayes Jacobs, President and Founder of Curriculum Designers and Curriculum21, in a rather sardonic—yet perfectly serious—tone.

Schools know how to teach literacy and critical thinking skills. Hayes Jacobs added two other dimensions of literacy pertinent to future success: digital literacy and global literacy.


Watch Hayes Jacobs' compelling presentation.

A long-time teacher and education consultant to districts, Hayes Jacobs knew that with limited time, the only way to upgrade education is through strategic replacement.

To connect classrooms through videoconferencing intrinsically is not valuable. Hayes Jacobs recounted a time when she observed two classrooms in different countries talking via Skype. The problem was the point of it seemed to be to see what students in the other country looked like. "It was superficial," she said. "If anything, it could do damage."

Instead, use videoconferencing to expand learning. She suggested using Skype to do a book study with another class, as one example. "It's more like tennis," where ideas go back and forth.

Students intrinsically know how to use Internet-based tools, however, it's important for educators to model best ways to research, synthesize, and share information.

Here are some tools and practices Hayes Jacobs recommends for teachers:

todaysmeet.com
Do away with traditional staff meetings. Use a tool like todaysmeet to capture all participants' thoughts during a meeting. The tool allows a meeting host to set up a dedicated Internet page for each meeting. Each participant signs in with his or her name, and can contribute thoughts throughout the meeting and interact with other participants. The transcript can be downloaded and saved for future reference. This tool has some similarities to Twitter and its hashtag functions, but it's nice not to have to tag every message, and a TodaysMeet transcript is easier to save and use later.

ooVoo.com
A free videoconferencing service that's very much like Skype, except that it allows for up to six simultaneous video conversations at once. An added bonus? Many district filtering devices have yet to catch up with ooVoo.

wordle.net
Wordle creates word maps out of web pages, Word documents, and PowerPoints. The words that are used the most appear the largest on the word map and, conversely, the words that are used the least can be miniscule. A practical application? Feed your school's mission statement into Wordle to see what values stand out the most. Now feed other paperwork, such as staff agendas or curriculum, and contrast the two word maps. Another useful way to use it is to feed student work into Wordle and critique the result with the student.

Find these, and many other tools on Hayes Jacobs' website, Curriculum21.org, where she created a special resource page on global and digital literacies. Be sure to check it out and share with us how you use Web 2.0 tools to build student global competence.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs spoke at the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning Conference. 

Follow Heidi and Asia Society on Twitter.

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