October 1, 2009
Using innovative strategies in collaboration with national and international education partners and school districts in Mississippi and Louisiana, Cisco Systems, Inc. (Cisco), has experimented with 21st Century education system reform ideas and strategies for the past four years. The Cisco 21S Initiative seeks to transform current approaches to school leadership and administration, teaching and learning practices, and community involvement by creating a next-generation education model that focuses on teaching 21st Century skills and establishing full-community participation-district staff, school staff, parents, and local businesses-in the education process. The 21S Initiative has three interrelated components:
CONNECTED SCHOOLS-establishing a secure and manageable baseline technology platform (including data, voice, video, etc.), which encompasses all the equipment and human resources necessary to support all administrative and instructional processes in the school.
CONNECTED LEARNING-supporting administrators, teachers, and technology personnel to create 21st Century learning environments through access to expertise and international best practices.
CONNECTED COMMUNITY-helping schools develop plans for interacting effectively with parents, local businesses, and community members and turn each participating school into a hub of the community.
Helping districts and schools make connections across all three components of the program is central to the 21S Initiative. Through the implementation of these program components in the Gulf Coast region, Cisco has learned how to effect rapid 21st Century education transformation in real education systems. As a result, Cisco's education and technology leadership have articulated a concrete vision and framework for a 21st Century education system (Cisco Systems, 2008). In conjunction, they have developed tools to manage better the process of education transformation. The principles of 21st Century education fall into four key categories:
1. 21st Century curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment: The adoption of 21st Century curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment allows all stakeholders to have a role in promoting student-centered and personalized learning and addressing the full range of knowledge and competencies that students need to prosper in a global world economy. A systemwide pedagogical agenda emphasizes adopting and improving best practices from around the world and constantly seeks emerging practices. Finally, formative and summative assessment techniques are consistently employed to improve learning and to gain full insight into the abilities of each and every student.
2. High-quality infrastructure and technology: In a 21st Century education system, the educational technology vision is led from the top but shared, owned, and effectively managed throughout the system. A high standard of technology is deployed effectively to support 21st Century teaching and learning. Initial training and ongoing support integrate technology with pedagogical development. The physical environment is designed to optimize 21st Century teaching and learning.
3. Policies, procedures, and management: A 21st Century education system is governed and managed with the ultimate goal of maximizing learning outcomes for all students. Transparent processes are in place to communicate and implement decisions, develop and monitor curriculum, sustain the budget, and procure resources. Additionally, policies and procedures are implemented to enable these education institutions to use data to drive school standards and accountability while stimulating and managing innovation. Finally, school learning is recognized as embedded within and dependent on an ecosystem of partners who support learning and/or provide other essential student services (e.g., health, social services).
4. Leadership, people, and culture: The entire system is a learning organization with a supportive culture that promotes ambitious and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Leaders throughout the system champion and model the 21st Century educational vision and work with well-trained and well-supported teachers. Emphasis is placed on the recruitment and retention of both principals and teachers through carefully designed outreach efforts and training programs. A 21st Century system explicitly promotes a culture of high expectations, respect, collaboration, and shared accountability.