21st century skills

Table of Contents

I wonder what in the year 1912 would have been considered “20th century skills”? Many of the industrial-age skills and jobs of that era are non-existent now. It’s sobering to think that the hottest technology of today is eventually destined to join film projectors, cassette players, and VCRs as obsolete. But skills in communications, creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking that transcend a set of physical tools are the focus of the articles in this issue, such as Using Metacognition to Develop Understanding of the Role of Evidence in Science.
One advantage of today’s technology is its interactivity. By manipulating variables, students and teachers can explore concepts in real time. Using Google Earth to Teach Plate Tectonics and Science Explanations addresses the question ” Does the Earth’s Structure Affect You? as students used the Google Earth application to view, explore, and create visualizations. Students became producers as well as consumers of knowledge. [SciLinks: Plate Tectonics, Structure of the Earth, Volcanoes, Continental Drift]
Teaching Critical Thinking Through Media Literacy has information on enhancing thinking skills in science, as students (and teachers) learn to analyze sources of information, evaluate conflicting views and claims made in the media, differentiate between fact and fiction, and create new media products. The authors of Enhance Nature Exploration with Technology describe a project in which students develop skills in reporting (or story-telling). They combined digital images and audio to share their experiences outdoors, on a nature walk. The article includes a rubric, suggestions for implementation, and links to real student projects, shared via tools such as YouTube or VoiceThread. [See Skeins of Student Contribution: A New Web 2.0 Tool for Science for more on VoiceThreads]

Have you ever looked at old science reference books and marveled at the illustrations? What did the artists have to know about science? How do these illustrations help us learn science? Communicating Science Concepts Through Art describes five strategies for integrating art and science: depiction, projection, reformatting, mimicry, and metaphor/analogy. Throughout the article there are many examples of student work, and it’s evident that students are demonstrating their learning of science concepts.
Viral News – Does “virus” here refer to the microorganism or to a popular story on the Internet? In this article, the word refers to both, as students used media literacy skills to gather information about HIV and HPV. The authors include lesson resources such as student “worksheets” to organize information, selected media sources, samples of student work, and suggested strategies for implementing the activity in the classroom. [SciLinks: Viruses, AIDS Virus]
The authors of Adaptable Inquiry-Based Activities About National Patterns of Coal and Energy Use describe a lesson in which students investigate the structure and geology of coal and its role in energy production. [SciLinks: Coal Mining, Fossil Fuels] For more on energy resources, The Keystone XL Pipeline has a concise description of the extraction and refining process, a map of the proposed location, and a chart of environmental and economic impacts.  (See also Fracking Fury in the March 2012 issue).
At first I thought I was seeing a typographical error in the article HeteroGenius Classes. But the subtitle “Why Inclusion and Mixed Grouping Create a Better Science Classroom” explains the unusual spelling. Teamwork and working with people who have a variety of backgrounds and skills are the focus of the article, which describes a classroom technique called “metacognitive circles.” The author describes how to model the process and how the process relates to inquiry skills. Using this technique, the teacher is indeed a guide on the side.
If it’s been a while since you thought of the dancing raisins demonstration, Cubes and Raisins describes how this traditional demonstration can be reformatted into a lesson to teach the difference between observation and inference.
Book Your Summer Vacation has book reviews from NSTA recommends. These are different from the recommendations in The Science Teacher’s Summer Reading That Inspires. Between the two, you can keep up to date on content and get ideas for your classes.

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