The Federal Trade Commission has just released a couple of new resources that will be of interest to educators.
Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online is a new guide for librarians, teachers, parents and others to help kids navigate the online world safely and responsibly. The booklet covers issues like social networking, sexting, cyberbullying, and mobile phones. Net Cetera is part of OnguardOnline.gov, which provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology community to help people guard against internet fraud, secure their computers and protect their privacy.
Another new resource is Admongo, an advertising literacy campaign targeted to tweens (ages 8-12). The FTC created Admongo because kids are exposed to advertising almost everywhere and because many ads target them. Given what kids see and hear around them, it’s important that they learn how to decode and understand ads. The centerpiece of the campaign is Admongo.gov, which uses a fast-paced game to teach kids to apply critical thinking skills when they see a product or logo on a package, commercial, t-shirt or other places. There are also lesson plans for 5th and 6th graders that meet national standards for language arts and social studies.
Both programs are FREE and in the public domain. Educators are encouraged to order as many copies of these materials as they can use from http://bulkorder.ftc.gov. There are also PDF files for printing on your own, embed code for linking to the information from your web site, lesson plans and teacher videos for your use.
I’ve been working this week on a presentation that I will give to the school board next week about how we are trying to change what we do in the library to meet the needs of the 21st century learner, so when I saw this video it really resonated with me. It’s worth the 6 minutes it will take you to watch it.
Each year we are very fortunate to be able to send about half of the 48 librarians in our district to the Texas Library Association annual conference. It is always a great time of learning and relationship-building for our group. When the conferees return, that learning and relationship-building continues as we all meet to hear information about some of the sessions they attended.
This has always been one of my favorite staff development sessions that we do each year, but I really look forward to it since we changed the format last year. In the past, the conference attendees made brief presentations on the sessions they attended to the whole group. While the information was interesting, two hours of “sit and get” wasn’t very much in keeping with current educational best practice.
Last year, we changed the format to a mini-conference, where participants can choose six out of twelve presentations that they would like to attend. Yesterday’s meeting consisted of sessions on virtual field trips, the state database program, gaming in the library, Second Life, digital booktalks, and more. Our schedule for the afternoon is posted here.
What I love about this meeting is the creativity that is shown by the presenters. We give them some very minimal guidelines and off they go! Yesterday we saw tic-tac-toe, interactive Powerpoints, games, discussion, a Promethean desktop flipchart, etc. all used as ways to involve the audience and make the presentation interactive. It’s so much fun to see all of the learning and sharing going on!
Thanks to all who presented yesterday. You all did a fantastic job!
The Seventh Survival Skill: Curiosity and Imagination
The words curiosity and inquisitiveness are almost always mentioned when I ask leaders to tell me what skills matter most today. Creativity and innovation are key factors not only in solving problems but also in devloping new or improved products and services. And so today’s employees need to master both “left-brain” skills – such as critcal thinking and problem solving, accessing and evaluating information, and so on – and “right-brain” skills such as curiosity, imagination, and creativity. It’s not enough to just be trained in the techniques of how to ask questions – as lawyers and MBAs often are, for example. Employees must also know how to use analytical skills in ways that are often more “out-of-the-box” than in the past, come up with creative solutions to problem, and be able to design products and services that stand out from the competition. In other words, they have to be new and improved knowledge workers – those who can think in disciplined ways, but also those who have a burning curiosity, a lively imagination, and can engage others empathetically.
The library is the perfect place to encourage curiosity, but I wonder if we are promoting it as such? Do we let kids know that the library is the place to find the answers to all the questions that they have – not just about school subjects, but about football, dance, Bigfoot, cartoons, spiders, dating, rockets, pets, and whatever else they might be interested in? So often, we see kids’ natural curiosity about the way the world works extinguished by the time they are in 3rd grade. The library is one place in the school where we can encourage curiosity to grow and flourish instead.
In what ways are you encouraging students to be curious?
The Sixth Survival Skill: Accessing and Analyzing Information
Employees in the twenty-first century have to manage an astronomical amount of information flowing into their work lives on a daily basis. As Mike Summers [vice president for Global Talent Managment at Dell] told me, “There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t repared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps.” Annmarie Neal [vice president for Talent Management at Cisco] pointed out that organizations need to be able to understand how people deal with the flow of information. She also stressed the importance of critical thinking in the context of how an employee receives and uses information. Rob Gordon [director of the American Politics Program at West Point, retired] said that all high school graduates need to learn how to access and analyze difference kinds of information. And Susan, the woman who works in the retail industry, talked about needed “people who can conceptualize but also synthesize a lot of data.” As she mentioned: “There’s so much more data that people have to synthesize. And they can’t just produce a bunch of reports. They have to find the important details and then say ‘here’s what we should do about it.’ “
Obviously, this information revolution has profound implications not just for work but also for citizenship and lifelong learning. To be active and informed citizens today, knowing how to read a newspaper is no longer enough. We have to be able to access and evaluate information from many different sources. Indeed, all this access to information is of little use – and may even be dangerous – if we don’t know how to evaluate it. This the immediate availability of information places an even greater premium on critical-thinking skills. Recently, a teacher told me a story that clearly illustrated this new challenge and unfortunately reflects quite a common occurrence. She had assigned students the task of researching Martin Luther King, Jr., near the time of the national holiday in his honor. But what many of them found during their Internet searches was scary. It tuned out that a white supremacist group had prepared for this important holiday and figured out how to manipulate Internet searches in such a way that their website was listed among the top five or so when an individual typed Dr. King’s name into a search engine. Their home page provided some factually accurate biographical information, so the site may have appeared legitimate at first glance, but when students went any further into the site, they encountered every kind of racist belief – all presented as facts.
Instant access to overwhelming amounts of information raises fundamental questions about the nature of curriculum in our schools today.
Teaching students this survival skill is an area in which librarians can really shine. What are you doing to help your students learn how to deal with the flood of information that is available to them?
The Fifth Survival Skill: Effective Oral and Written Communication
Communication skills are a major factor highlighted in dozens of studies over the years that focus on students’ lack of preparation for both college and the workplace, and these skills are only going to become more important as teams are increasingly composed of individuals from diverse cultures. The ability to express one’s views clearly in a democracy and to communicate effectively across cultures is an important citizenship skill as well. …
When I asked Rob Gordon [former director of the American Politics Program at West Point] what advice he had for teachers today, he was emphatic: “Teach them to write! Effective communication is key in everything we do – people need to learn to communicate effectively with each other and with external communities. Even enlisted men need to communicate effectively via e-mail. … I saw the importance of this in Iraq when I went back in January of 2004. When we asked a brigade commander what he’d learned, he talked about the importance of relying on soldiers who understood not only what they were seeing on screens that showed near real-time combatant movements but also how to interpret and communicate what they saw.”
Mike Summers [vice president for Global Talent Management at Dell Computers] also spoke forcefully on this issue: “We are routinely surprised at the difficulty some young people have in communicating: verbal skills, written skills, presentation skills. They have difficulty being clear and concise; it’s hard for them to create focus, energy, and passion around the points they want to make.” …
Listening to Summers’s comments as a former English teacher myself, I was surprised by the list of skills he thought important: not only the ability to communicate one’s thoughts clearly and concisely but also the ability to create focus, energy and passion. Summers and other leaders from various companies were not necessarily complaining about young people’s poor grammar, punctuation or spelling – the things we spend so much time teaching and testing in our schools. While it’s obviously important to write and speak correctly, the complaines I heard most frequently were about fuzzy thinking and the lack of writing with a real voice.
This is important information for teachers and librarians. What is disheartening, though, is that standardized tests don’t typically test this kind of writing and teachers have very little time to teach it. Any ideas for giving students opportunities to practice this kind of communication?
The Fourth Survival Skill: Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
Employees can ge good problem solvers and team players, and they can be agile and adapt to new surroundings and ideas, but I learned that mastery of these survival skills is not enough in many companies = and likewise in many communities that face new challenges requiring proactive leadership. In the interviews I conducted, I heard a strong and consistent concern about the ways in which today’s workers (and citizens) use or apply these survival skills: Leaders today want to see individuals take more initiative and even be entrepreneurial in terms of the ways they seek out new opportunities, ideas, and strategies for improvement.
How often do we give students the opportunity to show the initiative that they will be expected to demonstrate in the workplace?
The Third Survival Skill: Agility and Adaptability
The portrait of the New World of Work that is emerging is a complex one. The shift from a hierarchical authority that tells you what to do to a team-based environment has been both rapid and profound. Similarly, the intensifying rate of change, the overwhelming amount of data, and the increasing complexity of problems that individuals and teams face every day in their work are dramatic new challenges for everyone in the organization. All of these changes illuminate the importance of another set of essential survival skills for work today: agility and adaptability.
Last week, I was in a meeting with campus administrators where they were introduced to the new English Language Arts TEKS. It was quite surprising to that group that in 2009-2010, teachers would have new ELA objectives to teach. The corporate world is not the only place where things are changing.
We not only have to teach students agility and adaptability, we have to have those skills ourselves!
The Second Survival Skill: Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
Mike Summers, who is vice president for Global Talent Management at Dell Computers, told me that his greatest concern was young people’s lack of leadershp skills. “Kids just out of school have an amazing lack of preparedness in general leadership skills and collaborative skills,” he explained. “They lack the ability to influence versus direct and command.” In other words, the only kind of leadership young people have experienced is one that relies on obedience versus the kind of reasoning and persuasion that is the new leaderhip style demanded by businesses organized in teams and networks.
He went on, “Students have a naivete about how work gets done in the corporate environment. They have a predisposition toward believing that everything is clearly outlined, and then people give directions, and then other people execute until there’s a new set of directions. They don’t understand the complexities of an organization – that boundaries are fluid, that rearely does one group have everything they need to get a job done. How do you solve a problem when people who own what you need are outside your organization or don’t report to you, or the total solution requires a consortium of different people? How do you influence things that are out of your direct control?”
How can teachers and librarians help students develop this skill?
I’m reading a sobering new book called The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need and What We Can Do About It by Tony Wagner. Wagner is co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has done a lot of research into the topic and his book is a powerful call to action.
Wagner describes the global achievement gap as “the gap between what even our best suburban, urban and rural public schools are teaching and testing versus what all students will need to succeed as learners, workers, and citizens in today’s global knowledge economy.” He goes on to say that “even in these ‘good’ schools, students are simply not learning the skills that matter most for the twenty-first century.”
What are these skills?
The First Survival Skill
Critical thinking and problem solving.
In researching the book, Wagner spoke to leaders in all types of businesses. He writes: “It turns out that asking good questions, critical thinking, and problem solving go hand in had in the minds of most employers and business consultants, and taken together they represent the First Survival Skill of the new global ‘knowledge economy.’ Equally important, they are skills that our kids need in order to participate effectively in our democracy.”
Librarians can play a huge part in teaching kids to ask good questions through well-developed research activities in the library.