Thursday, December 16, 2010

The National Education Association and The Gateway to 21st Century Skills: Bringing Valuable Digital Resources into the Classroom

Each new school day is a chance for educators to bring their personal best to the classroom. Unfortunately, important issues like budget cuts in schools, standardized testing, elimination of extracurricular activities, and the responsibility to connect every lesson plan to state standards can take away from the true beauty and fun of teaching. Many teachers can be overwhelmed by the issues surrounding education because they take away from what they do best: teach. The National Education Association works to support their members to make sure they can be the best teachers they can be. One NEA sponsored program that is particularly special to us, The Gateway to 21st Century Skills, is a good example of how the NEA strives to support educators.

National Education Association Executive Director John Wilson spoke about the value of digital resources and the importance of The Gateway to over 60 education organizations at the Global Learning Resource Connection meeting this November in The Woodlands, Texas. His interview with Tech & Learning covered the benefits of The Gateway, the importance of global literacy, the National Education Technology Plan, and the future of schools in a struggling economy. This week, I will summarize some of the points made by Mr. Wilson, and in the following weeks Joann and I will feature resources and ideas that speak to the issues he brought up in his interview. Joann highlighted resources about mock trials this week, which is an excellent example of teachers doing more with less in a tough economy by utilizing free resources.

The NEA and the team at The Gateway to 21st Century Skills want all educators to have access to the plethora free resources and tools available online to improve their teaching. We will continue to keep you up to date on timely resources, research, and tools available here in our weekly columns (which are archived on our Gateway blog site) and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Here is a summary of John Wilson’s talk on the importance and usefulness of digital resources for K-12 students and beyond:

What is the Gateway?

In his interview, John Wilson introduced The Gateway as a valuable portal that offers teachers lots of opportunities to find lesson plans aligned with state standards. This alignment is very important since it allows teachers to find high quality resources that meet the specific standards that they need to teach throughout the year. As states begin to adopt core standards, the lesson plans and activities on The Gateway will be aligned with those as well.

How can teachers teach and think more globally?

The NEA is a founding member of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. A key skill students will need in the future is global literacy. We live in a global community, and it is increasingly important for students to understand different cultures and languages from around the world. There are many useful resources catalogued on The Gateway to help teachers increase students’ global literacy, and we will go into those resources in more depth in the weeks to come. Joann and Peggy need to help educators harness new technology to bring other countries and cultures into the classrooms. The Gateway team will also look into the options available to teachers and discuss these ideas in our columns and social networking sites.

How will the NEA support teachers as schools implement National Education Technology Plan?

Mr. Wilson stressed that the NEA will support awareness at the state level of what’s going on in the plans in Washington. We will also strive to provide support on The Gateway. The NEA is working with the Lincoln Center on a program called Imagination Conversations to help teachers. Innovation is very important, and we have discussed it a few times this year. We will continue to hold these conversations, because, as John Wilson explained, “It’s time for our country to reclaim our role as the innovators of the world.”

What do you say to schools struggling with a challenging economy?

Mr. Wilson said that no matter what the economic situation looks like, we need to give our students the best we can offer every year. The Gateway can be a big part of this goal by providing teachers with as many useful tools as possible to do more with less. This has been an underlying theme in our discussions throughout the year, and will continue to be on the top of the list for the team here at The Gateway to 21st Century Skills. These conversations will help educators become more efficient at using their resources and more innovative in their teaching.

Another point Mr. Wilson made was that communities need to step up and help fund education when government falls short. We need to have constant conversations on the topic, and be sure educators understand where they can find funding. This is another area we plan to cover in our Gateway conversations in the next few weeks.

~Peggy's Corner - 12/9/2010~

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