21st Century Skills – the backdrop

clip_image001There has been a great deal of discussion recently on the issue of 21st century learning, particularly in the US. There are a number of websites dealing with the issue of 21st century learning but my favourite is the Partnership for 21st Century (www.21stcenturyskills.org). 21st Century Learning is very opposite to an industrial model of schooling where students sit passively in their desks and the teacher is viewed as the fountain of all knowledge who dispenses knowledge from on high. The opposite of this approach is where students collaborate in teams to solve problems, which they have chosen to solve in partnership with their teachers. The 21st Century Partnership has identified nine key types of learning skills – these are divided into 3 key areas – Information and Communication Skills, Thinking and Problem Solving Skills and Interpersonal and Self-Directional Skills. I will come back to the issue of 21st century learning again in future blog postings but for now I want to locate Scratch within this space.

Scratch is a new programming environment developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab (http://scratch.mit.edu).

By working on Scratch projects students learn to select, create, and manage multiple forms of medias, including text, images, animation, and audio recordings. clip_image002The programme allows young people to communicate by creating their own games, stories etc. The great thing about Scratch is that it comes from a team within MIT that has brought us Logo and more recently programmable Lego. The group understand how young people learn and they are constantly developing Scratch to meet the needs of an ever demanding young generation. The programme and support materials are free. The manual is colourful and easy to use.

Visit the website for yourself and check it out. There are a number of groups of Ireland using Scratch – including UCD and UL. There is a growing interest in exploring how Irish young people can use the programming environment to support 21st century learning. If you have ideas or examples of how it has been used – please let us know. It could be great idea for a TeachNet grant this year , if you are up for it!

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