Rethinking Professional Development Approaches in the Digital Age: What Does it Mean to Teach 21st Century Skills with Technology?

April 1, 2006

Educational leaders acknowledge that new skills are necessary for students to be successful in the digital age, yet these skills are neither clearly defined nor part of learning standards or assessments (Burkhardt et al., 2003), which leaves the "21st century skills" abstract and not specifically tied to core content or learning activities. Therefore, educators face the challenge of how to move from abstract concepts associated with these skills to the creation and implementation of learning activities in the classroom that support subject-specific content.

This paper describes lessons learned from the ongoing development of a large-scale professional development program, and evidence gathered from the formative evaluation of this program. Drawing on our knowledge of this program, we pose the following questions: What do teachers need to know to teach 21st century skills with technology? What experiences are they likely to need to be prepared to foster these skills in their students' work? How can these skills be taught in the context of core content?

This paper summarizes findings from this formative evaluation and discusses the opportunities and challenges teacher-trainers identify when they seek to follow up on the ideas they are exposed to in this professional development program. This Workshop, created by the IntelĀ® Innovation in Education program, helps K-12 teachers teach their students higher-order thinking skills while integrating technology into the classroom. The three tools featured in the Workshops include: Seeing Reason, which focuses on causal reasoning; Visual Ranking, which focuses on prioritizing information, exploring perspectives, and building consensus; and Showing Evidence, which focuses on generating claims and evidence to support or refute arguments. The goal of these Workshops is to help teachers use these tools to cultivate their students' 21st century skills across grade levels and content areas.


Dara Wexler
Katherine Culp