On February 15, 2008, the National Council of Teachers of English Executive Committee adopted document entitled NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies. The purpose of this document was to create a working definition that educators could use as they struggle with what it means to teach in the changing landscape of education. With so many new technologies available to students in their educational settings, altering teaching practices is an important part of helping learners find success.
On Wednesday November 19, 2008 NCTE’s Executive Committee adopted another document entitled NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment. I had the privilege to work on this document and wanted to bring it to the attention of educators. The purpose behind this framework is to expand the definition and make it a usable tool for teachers while at the same time, not introducing another set of standards or a checklist. It was designed with teachers in mind to help them think about their practice and how it relates to 21st century learning.
The document itself is organized into three basic parts: Context, Framework Elements and Implications for Assessment. In the context section, there is a brief statement about the purpose of the document itself as well as a reference to the actual definition.
As a part of the Framework Elements, each point that is part of the definition is expanded upon and explained more fully. Following the explanations are a set of questions that are designed to help teachers think about what this might look like in their classrooms. Each question is phrased as a yes/no question to help in the reflection of lesson plans and curriculum planning. While not every lesson will have all of these aspects and not all questions will be applicable, these explanations and examples are meant to help interpret and further define each point providing teachers with a better idea of activities that would engage students using inquiry-based, collaborative and ethical practices.
The final piece of the framework has to do with the changing assessments. The framework recognizes the validity of traditional assessments while also giving credence to some new assessment strategies that should be considered as practice changes.
The framework document in no way is the final authority on 21st century skills, but is meant to be a tool that can be used by teachers as they plan lessons and coordinators as they design their content’s curricula. It is not a checklist, but a guideline. Not a set of standards but a model. Finally, it is not about technology but about teaching students in the 21st century.