April Driving Question: How can schools engage parents in 21st Century Skills?
Eric Sheninger is the Principal of New Milford High School (NJ) and nationally recognized for his efforts in educational technology leadership. He has authored three books: Essentials for Principals:Communicating and Connecting with Social Media, Twitter for Educators, and The Best Uses of Social Media for Educators. Learn more about Eric's work at http://ericsheninger.com.
Most parents would agree that the world is changing as we move further and further into the 21st Century. As a result schools are tasked with preparing each and every learner with essential skill sets that will put them in a position to succeed in careers that don’t even exist yet. However, if one were to ask parents what 21st Century skills are and how they are integrated into learning activities at school, I would imagine most would give a blank stare or be unable to answer this question.
At New Milford High School (NJ), we are in the midst of transforming our teaching and learning culture in a way that emphasizes and incorporates 21st Century skills. Transparency has been a key element for us in garnering support for instructional shifts that we felt were needed to make learning more meaningful and relevant. We have found great success in making parents aware of these skills through active sharing of best practices that work to support and enhance the skills on a routine basis.
For over two years I have used a variety of social media tools with parents to communicate and share how students are using digital tools in a way that supports communication, collaboration, creation, media literacy, and global awareness.
My first advice to schools and educators is to establish blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook accounts that not only explain what these skills are and their importance, but also spotlight learning activities where they are incorporated.
My second suggestion is to showcase particular curricular areas during open houses and back-to-school-nights so parents can see these skills in action. We have done this the past two years and believe the impact of parents seeing students apply these skills to solve problems and think critically goes a long way towards building awareness.
Not only am I modeling the effective use and application of 21st Century skills, I am also building support for this key stakeholder group as they see and hear from their own children about the innovative learning experiences the students are engaged in. I utilize 21st Century tools to communicate and as a foundation for a public relations platform so parents will become more aware as to what these skills are and the function they serve.
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