Goochland began the G21 program in 2008, and is unique as a three-part initiative: it's a framework for developing student twenty-first century skills, it's a recognition program of teaching and learning excellence (G21 Faire), and in SY 2011-12, we innovate with individual student and school-wide G21 projects and goals. G21 shouldn't be confused with similarly-named initiatives from other school divisions.
G21 is Goochland County’s effort to bring 21st century skill awareness into the culture of each school. We’re doing this by replacing our previous initiative of individual technology goals for each teacher with a 21st century blueprint that serves as a model, high-quality lesson plan for teachers built around a project-based approach. The G21 framework builds upon the ideas for 21st century skills from a variety of resources, and in SY 2011-12, we embark on our fourth year of this effort.
The planning process, which begins each September with each individual teacher, combines the subject-matter expertise of the teacher with the technology pedagogy expertise of the instructional technologist (TPACK). Together, the G21 plan reflects the interests and professional development needs of the classroom teacher with a blueprint for engaging students with content in a rich, project-based approach.
In looking at how technology was making an impact in instruction, we saw that it had the most “bang for the buck” when it was coupled with a constructivst approach to pedagogy (teaching). As our administrators learned about the concepts behind twenty-first century skills in 2008-2009, we wanted to focus on building those skills that looked beyond the content being tested for the Standards of Learning. G21 is both a reaction to improving instruction and also using technology for the best reasons.
A G21 project is nothing more than a design for good instruction based around a project-based lesson or unit of study for students. We ask that in a G21 that students create something, whether that be a physical object, a piece of digital media, or even a performance. Instruction therefore operates around the creation of this product, pulling in a number of skills educators and business leaders today are calling “twenty-first century” skills. These skills are not new, but the term certainly raises awareness of the skills business leaders today are saying students need more practice at developing.
G21 projects can be “big idea” types of projects that take weeks. But to be good, a G21 doesn’t need to be a monumental undertaking. It can be a simple lesson that uses the best tools for the job and inspires a student’s creativity.
Depending upon who you ask, these skills might be different. We’ve come up with our own list of 12. We describe them below.
Research 2.0 Teaching research skills, including something we call “infoseeking fluency” is critical in an information society. A re-think of research today embraces technology and dealing with information organization in a digital medium. When projects involve research, we teach students how to evaluate information, how to organize it, and how to add it to a personal library. This process builds fluency for better searching in mainstream search engines.
Communication Skills Communicating effectively can involve writing, but in a media rich society, it also includes other media and means of expression. Skills related to communication teach students to be good citizens yet be effective at expressing their ideas.
Managing Time and Resources Time management is difficult for students when the activity they are engaged in is fun. Yet in the world of work, projects can have due dates and clients may have expectations for expedient work. This skill group teaches students to plan-out their responsibilities, budget time and resources required, and meet the expectations for the project.
Creativity Creativity goes beyond the arts; creative, inventive thinking is behind some of the most in-demand professions. When creativity is a focus, students are encouraged to think beyond the recall of answers and to generate their own ideas. Brainstorming, problem-solving, and logical thinking all relate to the world of creativity.
Problem-Solving Related to creativity, problem-solving deserves its own place on the G21 list of skills. Problem-solving takes time to develop the skill necessary to break-down obstacles, identifying the problem, and trying possible solutions. While puzzles and logic problems may classically have been used to develop problem-solving skills, today we can also make a problem the core of a G21 project. Projects therefore become challenges that extend outside the classroom and into the community.
Self-Directed This skill builds better independent learners. Sometimes, we want to develop a student’s skill at working as a member of a team. Other times, we want to work towards being an independent learner. The self-directed skill challenges students to work towards answering one’s own questions and considering several habits of mind.
Real-World Impact You’ll see real world listed several times in the G21 framework. Here, we’re talking about a skill set that takes students outside of the classroom environment into the world outside of school. Will students be working with individuals in the community? Will they be working with other students in another part of the world? Typically real-world impact skills are associated with projects that extend beyond the classroom’s walls. Examples might include interviewing a judge, writing a letter to encourage change to a politician, or providing community service outside of the school day.
Technology, Information, and Media Literacies This grouping is a large one! These are a set of skills that involve using technology (productivity, Internet safety), organizing and managing information, and evaluating media. These skills involve consideration of ethics, the law, and elements of digital citizenship.
Collaborate Large Group A large-group collaboration is one between two or more classes. It includes skills of belonging on a team with a purpose, dealing with competition, and working towards a common goal. Large-group collaborations are typically facilitated by the teachers.
Collaborate Small Group A small-group collaboration takes place within the confines of a classroom between 2-5 students. These intimate groupings are typically defined as “teams,” where each member has a distinct role within the project. A great example of a small-group collaboration is students working on a podcast series. The roles may change each time a new podcast is required.
Global/Multicultural We live in an ever-increasing global society, due in large part to the communications that are today facilitated by the Internet. Projects which raise global awareness and perspectives, that study another culture, or put students into contact with learners in other parts of the world qualify here. Great G21s that include this set of skills enable students to have a better appreciation of their place in world society.
Teaching Others There’s an old adage that says if you know how to teach someone something, you know it well. This skill involves students teaching one or more of their peers a skill or concept. It works hand-in-hand with collaboration and communication.
Starting in SY 2011-12, all schools will choose a G21 theme for the year. This theme sets the stage for classroom or individual student G21 projects to funnel into. By design, the theme will be over-arching, and each school is responsible for choosing their own theme. In addition to choosing a theme, the school will choose an activity for participation by teachers and students that relates to the theme. This activity may not necessarily include all stakeholders, but may encourage collaboration, competition, and public service. In 2010-11, Byrd Elementary School initiated a school-wide project through its Read-to-Feed program. As a school, they raised money to purchase animals through Heifer International. They raised money through a donation campaign tied to reading books, and they tracked competition between grades.
The diagram below shows the G21 framework. It includes an acknowledgement of how many core subject areas are touched for content, the aim for levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, the tools used, the basic outline of what will happen (means), and a description of the product. We also articulate an assessment that will both evaluate the learning objective and also the skills we target.
New for 2011-12, we're offering a new option for teachers to engage students with individual projects. These can be designed for students individually, or for students to work in small, self-selected groups. Like a class G21 project, here the product may be selected by the student as part of a solution towards a challenge or theme. The core reasons for electing to do student projects is to:
Examples of individual projects might include:
These products aren't necessarily different from other student projects. But the way we arrive at them is to focus attention first on a school-wide G21 theme, identify curricular areas we want to focus on (math, English, etc.), and to propose an issue related to the school theme that will challenge students to consider a solution, take a side, or inform others about issues.
Each year the school division is committed to recognizing teachers who excel with twenty-first century (G21) projects. In 2008-09, we recognized the project of Jillian Edwards from GMS and in 2009-10, we recognized Elizabeth Curfman, also from GMS with three of her colleagues in a new recognition called “G21 Masters,” after the Bravo hit-TV show, “Top Chef Masters.” Plans for SY 2010-11 are to continue the teacher recognition piece, but also to start recognizing the students who stand out in their execution of these exciting projects.
Goochland’s supervisor for instructional technology John Hendron is the creator of the G21 framework, and has received invaluable input from Goochland’s instructional leadership team in the planning and execution of G21. John travels to each school in September to meet with teachers at each school to plan a G21 project. Projects can change year to year, or we can build upon a previous project. Some teachers have also organized themselves together to work collaboratively on a project between different classes.
First, teachers will sign-up for a time-slot to plan their G21 on the day chosen for their school. The 15-20 minute window is all we have, so teachers will come to the meeting with some ideas about what they want to do. They should focus on a unit of study, a particular lesson or topic, or they may instead want to focus on a particular tool or product. With each meeting it’s different, but our time together is maximized when some pre-planning is done.
Many times, teachers come with portions of the G21 Planning Worksheet completed. John asks questions to clarify the learning objectives and may tweak the project means to include more twenty-first century skills.
After our conference, John will send the teacher a copy of the completed plan following the framework above. This is a “blueprint,” and may not include all the information one would normally include in a lesson plan. Yet, we’ve recorded some important details:
Before the project is undertaken, teachers may wish to consult with resource teachers in their building, our ITRT, or John Hendron about the execution of the project. When the project is completed, we will ask teachers to complete this G21 Assessment Worksheet. This document will be shared with a building principal who evaluates the projects as part of our continuous professional development program.
Doing G21 projects takes extra time and effort. Again, “Why G21?” It’s an opportunity to engage students in a more progressive learning style built around project-based learning. And it’s an opportunity for teachers to stretch their skills in pedagogy by focusing on what we might call the “smart integration” of technology in teaching. G21 hopefully for everyone is a creative experience that goes beyond content standards by going beyond the Virginia Standards of Learning by engaging students and teachers with real-world skills.