21st Century Skills vs Core Knowledge : Justin Womack

I find myself balancing on the fence with this subject.  On one side, I feel it is absolutely essential for students to have  core knowledge to better assist them with life.  I also believe that being able to apply this knowledge to the 21st century is greatly important.  In the USA Today article the dissenters to 21st century teaching said that it takes away from class time and learning essential content (Toppo, 2009).  I am only in my first year of teaching, but I feel that I agree with those against 21 century teaching.  It seems to me that because of the increased focus on relating teaching to our times students are missing out on core concepts.

Reading through each website I believe they all represented their views very well.  I liked how the core knowledge website had the knowledge sequenced.  This made it easy to see how that knowledge grew as student’s progress through school.  This website also did well to divide the information about their beliefs for each interested group i.e. teacher, administrator, parent (“Core knowledge,” 2013).    The partnership for 21st century skills website was good about providing specific examples of how their learning looks throughout the educational spectrum.  The wiki spaces site was the most interesting to look at.  There were a lot of graphs and visual representations of information.  This was a great way to keep the reader engaged.  Looking over all the websites only confirmed my thought that core knowledge is important and that applying that knowledge to the 21st century is the best way to go about teaching.  In my school we have many 8th graders who do not know their basic times tables.  Students are allowed to use their calculators for all math work because this coincides with their math SOL.  When I asked my mentor teacher about possible working the students through drills she told me that this type of teaching was frowned upon.  It seems difficult to me for this idea of 21st century teaching to work if the students do not even have a grasp of the basics.  While the students are able to connect knowledge to things relevant to them today the depth of that knowledge may not be as deep as those learning core knowledge.

I teach special education and it is my job to make learning accessible to all my students.  My students struggle with the basics of learning and it seems counter productive to ask them to relate knowledge to things related to 21st century.  Students require a baseline of knowledge to be able to apply it to high level of learning.  While 21st century learning  helps prepare students to function better in today’s world, I do not see this being effective if they don’t have an understanding of the core of their knowledge.  With the examples presented involving the 21st century learning students are asked to collaborate with each other and problem solve on their own.  This is asking students to use prior knowledge to apply to more complex situations of today.  For my students I believe that this is giving them too much at once to think about.  Their learning needs to be explicit to make sure they fully understand things.  While the idea of students learning information to fit their 21st century needs, I believe students need to learn about core knowledge first and then apply it to their lives today.

Core knowledge. (2013). Retrieved from http://coreknowledge.org/advocates

Toppo, G. (2009, March 4). What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’?. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm

Comments

  1. caseycatron on 01.27.2013

    hi justin -it was interesting to read about your viewpoint of integrating technology into special education classrooms. This is not something that I had previously considered and I would be interested in seeing what ways you could integrate technology while still teaching them the core knowledge they needed. I could be easy to overwhelm and ultimately counter-productive but some tools could make it easier for them to learn the core knowledge and then apply it to their lives today and in the future. great post!

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