Our Current Challenge
As 21st century educators, we are becoming increasingly aware of how the world is rapidly changing, and, by contrast, how the ways in which we approach educating our young people isn’t. The traditional model of education was built to prepare students for life in the Industrial Age, which emphasized isolated skills that prepared young people for assembly line work. These approaches continue to persist today, despite the passage of time and the stark changes in context.
Senge (2012) stresses that “school may be the starkest example in modern society of an entire institution modeled after the assembly line” (p. 35). Work and life in the 21st century will require our young people to have skills that allow them to adapt, innovate, and interact with others who come from very different cultural and language backgrounds. This is a far cry from working in a production line where all the parts are universal and fit together neatly.
The competencies needed today require that instead of having a defined set of information to acquire, we become lifelong learners. Jacobs (2010) admonishes us that “to meet this challenge, we need to become strategic learners ourselves by deliberately expanding our perspectives and updating our approaches” (p. 7).
Since the days of the Industrial Revolution, knowledge has exploded exponentially. We have moved from an economic model based on production, to one of information. We are bombarded with a tremendous amount of information each year. Derbyshire (2011) reports that researchers estimate that the data we encounter is “the equivalent of every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every single day” (para. 1). The Digital Revolution, which launched the Information Age, has dramatically shifted how we communicate, travel, research, and do business.
Social networking has created a whole new universe where everyone from teens to presidents can connect, post, tweet, blog, and share, without a lot of restrictions or oversight. Most have learned, however, that this is not always a good thing. This is particularly the case when users are unaware of (or unconcerned about) the potential consequences of a ubiquitous and often permanent online presence.
A few big questions we ask ourselves, then, are:
- Are we preparing our students to succeed in such a world?
- Is what and how we are teaching day in and day out relevant to life outside of school?
- Are our students engaged? Are they learning? Are they thriving?
While we are making some progress, we still have more work to do to ensure that all students are engaged in the learning process and becoming proficient in relevant competencies. While the high school dropout rate has steadily declined over the past few decades, we are still ranked 22nd out of 27 developed countries (Banchero, 2013). In addition, “the status dropout rate was lower for White than for Black youth, and the rates for both groups were lower than the rate for Hispanic youth” (National Center for Education Statistics, n.d.).
Though we are showing a statistical improvement in our educational aims, we have work to do to continue to narrow the achievement gap to ensure equity for all students. Fullan (2013), pushes the envelope even further by claiming that “in education, we have just about reached the end of squeezing good out of an outdated school system. The current system is too costly, too ineffective, and as any kid will tell you, deadly boring” (p. 5). We need to make a change for the better.
In addition to the challenge of keeping students engaged, safe, and thriving in school, we also need to ensure we are instilling in our youth valuable skills that will help them succeed in college and work life. However, college professors and employers are telling us that the young people who enter their institutions are deficient in skills and character qualities necessary to succeed. According to the most recent NAEP Report Card (2015), only about one-third of high school seniors are prepared for college-level coursework in math and reading (Camera, 2018).
According to research conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), 96% of employers believe that all entry-level employees should not only have content or field knowledge, but also a range of experiences that “teach them how to solve problems with people whose views are different from their own” (“Falling Short?,” 2016, p. 4). The report also states that employers stress the need for effective written and oral communication skills, the ability to excel on teams, strengths in making ethical and rational decisions, as well as competence for putting knowledge into a real-world context (p. 4). The following table below shows the percentage of employers who found the various competencies to be essential:
|Learning Outcomes Four in Five Employers Rate as Very Important||%|
|The ability to effectively communicate orally||85|
|The ability to work effectively with others in teams||83|
|The ability to effectively communicate in writing||82|
|Ethical judgment and decision making||81|
|Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills||81|
|The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings||80|
Falling short? College learning and career success, by Hart Research Associates, retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/leap/public-opinion-research/2015-survey-results
Unfortunately, fewer than 40% of employers believe that recent college graduates are well prepared regarding these types of valuable skills (“Falling Short?,” 2016, p. 11). What can we, as educators, do to improve the situation?
Technology as Accelerator
In our efforts to reform education, we often have attempted to integrate technology into our existing curriculum. Our goals were to improve teaching and learning by engaging students and teaching them skills that would be needed in a global society. However, as so often happens with revolution and reform, the pendulum swung a bit too far. In the hopes of making education more relevant to “digital natives,” institutions positioned technology as the driver to improve student learning with highly engaging digital tools. This has come at a great cost, both literally and figuratively.
In 2010-2011, spending for educational technology in the U.S. reached $632 billion (Ramasubbu, 2016). Fullan (2016) has noted, that “the past 30 years have seen billions poured into the acquisition of digital devices and software, with few whole system gains in student performance to show for it” (p. 81). This is primarily because technology is the wrong driver. Fullan (2016) emphasizes that by placing pedagogy at the forefront, and having technology, or digital, as the accelerator, the synergy created by the two forces deepens and enhances learning for all students.
Fullan and Langworthy (2014) warn that “without changes to the fundamental pedagogical models by which teachers teach and learners learn, technology investments have too often simply layered slightly more entertaining content delivery or basic skill practice on top of conventional teaching strategies that focus on the reproduction of existing content knowledge” (p. 30). Technology alone is not enough to lead to whole system reform.
Global Competencies: The 6 Cs of Education
Not only is it imperative to integrate digital tools with effective pedagogy, it is also essential that educators incorporate global competencies that develop key intrapersonal and interpersonal skills that are essential in today’s workplace (AAC&U, 2015). Jarche (2018) has observed that:
Soft skills are becoming more important than hard skills. Smart employers have always focused more on attitude than any specific skill-set because they know they can train for a lack of skills and knowledge. But soft skills require time, mentoring, informal learning, and other environmental supports. Courses and training are not enough. (para. 6)
Different competencies are touted as being the most essential and employable for life in the 21st century. The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) has highlighted four learning and innovation skills as being necessary for “complex life and work environments in the 21st century (“Framework for 21st Century Learning – P21,” para. 7):
- Creativity and innovation;
- Critical thinking and problems solving
Fullan (2016) in his work with New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL), has expanded the competencies from four to six, by including character and citizenship. He also clarifies that “the overall purpose of the 6Cs is not only the well-being of the whole student but also the well-being of the group and society as a whole (Fullan, 2016, p. 85). Furthermore, Fullan, Quinn, and McEachen (2018) outline seven reasons why incorporating the 6Cs in education, which they call deep learning, are so effective at reaching even the most reluctant learners. These competencies:
- increase self and others’ expectations for more learning and achievement by providing a process
- increase student engagement in the learning through personalization and ownership
- connect students to the “real world,” which is often more reflective of their own reality and cultural identity
- resonate with spiritual values that link to vast numbers of the population whether secular or religious
- build skills, knowledge, self-confidence, and self-efficacy through inquiry
- build new relationships with and between the learner, their family, their communities, and their teachers
- deepen human desire to connect with others to do good. (p. 7)
For the purposes of this book, we have adopted Fullan’s 6 Cs of Education, i.e., character, citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking, as the global competencies that will serve as the anchor for each chapter.
Who We Are and How We Can Help
We are a team of educators from all across California who are currently studying together in a doctorate program in educational leadership. Through collaborative inquiry, we have worked together to build Beyond the Cloud: Supporting the 6Cs with Educational Technology. This text is a compendium of digital tools and technology platforms, that, for very little, if any, cost, teachers can utilize to deepen their students’ learning – not only of content but also of essential global competencies and technology tools.
We, too, are learners who are looking to support educators with practical ideas that will transform classroom lessons into engaging, relevant, real-world learning opportunities that will help transform learning for all students. This book has been created as a part of the open education movement. Instead of writing a research paper that would only be read by our professor and perhaps one or two of our friends or colleagues, this book was created to extend our reach. Our hope is that other educators will be inspired by our work and will seek to better facilitate their students’ learning.
Purpose of this Book
Our purpose in writing this book is to twofold. We strive to:
- Provide a theory as to why the 6Cs or global competencies are crucial skills for our students to learn
- Translate that theory into relevant practice that demonstrates how easy it is to integrate educational technology that not only accelerates the acquisition of these same competencies but also engages students in the process.
We hope you will find it beneficial in finding ways to have technology accelerate your students’ learning. Our intent is to provide a practical guide that provides the theory necessary to understand the way each competency is vital in serving our students well, now and in the future. We also stress taking that theory and being able to put it into action in our learning environments.
Structure of the Chapters
Each chapter focuses on a different competency and will explain why this skill is essential. This is what comprises the theory section of the chapter. Then, the author(s) will provide information on standards and digital pathways to help you determine how best to integrate this particular lesson in with your existing curriculum. The bulk of each chapter will then highlight a number of digital or technological resources that you can incorporate into your teaching practice to accelerate the learning of the global competency that is the focus of the chapter.
Finally, each chapter will end with a Theory to Practice (T2P) section that is modeled after Hooper and Bernhardt’s (2016) T2P framework. This section includes a section for review, reflect, and refine (pp.6-7). The purpose is to encourage you to intentionally review, via guided questions, the material on both the highlighted competency as well as the integrated technology and/or digital resource component. The reflect component will give you the opportunity to analyze and connect the new ideas to your own context, and finally the refine section gives you the opportunity to tailor the ideas to your own classroom, school, or district.
Chapter 1: Character: It’s Who We Are Individually as well as the Future of Our Society. Michelle Echiverri, principal of a K-5 elementary school in Romoland, CA, and mom to six and Mariah Mayer, a 6th-grade teacher in Orange County, mom of three children, youth ministry advocate and gratitude specialist, share the importance of character education in schools in order to develop contributing members of society. They also share practical ways to teach character, using technology, to deepen and accelerate character growth in themselves and others.
Chapter 2: Citizenship: Empowering Students to Be Digitally Responsible – Sharill Cortez, a principal in Perris, CA and Jacqueline Brown, a 4th-grade teacher in Costa Mesa, CA, explore citizenship in the digital world. Examining the complexities of raising children to become digital citizens, Cortez and Brown guide educators through the benefits and evolution of 21st Century technology.
Chapter 3: Collaboration: Teaching the Importance of 1 Team, 1 Mission Kristen Stephens, educator at West Coast University in Anaheim, CA, and Karen Ward, CTE instructor and Program Manager of Expanded Learning in Riverside, CA, discuss the importance of teaching students the skill of collaboration along with various related interpersonal and teamwork skills, in preparing them for college and work life in the 21st century. They also provide practical ways to integrate technology platforms that encourage collaboration and engage students in the process.
Chapter 4: Communication: the Key to Unlocking your Students’ Future Success and Happiness. Jazmina Villalta, Assistant Principal at Innovative Horizons Charter School in Perris, CA, and Michael Soto, Master Sergeant in the United States Army, present the importance of teaching and learning communication skills. Communication is a skill practiced everywhere we go.
Chapter 5: Creativity Rick Nichols, Dean of Students at Warren High School in Downey, CA and Jonathan Wright, teaches English, Video Production, and an array of elective classes in Chino Hills, Ca. Jonathan’s research is on Latino immigrants’ perception of High School Principal’s cultural proficiently. He hopes his findings will support his hypothesis that the more positive involvement principals and teachers have with Latin Immigrant parents, the more successful the students will be. This will result in reduced absenteeism, fewer referrals and overall improvement in the student’s GPA.
Chapter 6: Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving. Given the rapid rate of change, the ability to assess, evaluate, and formulate solutions to ambiguous problems is essential. This chapter explores strategies and tools to enhance learners’ critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities.
How to Use This Book
We have separated this book into six main chapters, each focusing on a different global competency. Each chapter is independent of the others, so it is not necessary to read the book from cover to cover to get valuable insights and resource information (but we hope you do!). Each chapter also has a companion podcast episode to give you an opportunity to hear from some of the authors and other experts in the field. Access the Beyond the Cloud podcasts on our website (https://beyondthecloud419970225.wordpress.com/) or search for Beyond the Cloud on your favorite podcast app.
All images in the book are either used under an open license, or the citations are included. Most images were created using the online graphics service called Canva. The cover of Beyond the Cloud was also made with Canva, by our resident creative force: Rick Nichols.
We thank the EDD Cohort 7 at Concordia University for being the first in our program to create an open textbook and for inspiring us in this way. While the majority of what we created involved our own research and writing, we did include portions of the collaboration chapter from Cohort 7’s book: Igniting Your Teaching with Educational Technology (https://edd7032017f2.pressbooks.com/), since it aligned so well with our goals. Thank you to Matt Rhoads, Hugo Sierra, and Janice T. Mercado Toro for your work on that original collaboration chapter.