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Transforming Learning through 21st Century Skills: The Who Took My Chalk?™ Model for Engaging You and Your Students,

By Lydotta M. Taylor and Jill M. Fratto

Foreword by Bob Pearlman: Letter to a 21st Century Teacher


January 1, 2011

Dear Teacher,

I see your challenge. Your note to me makes it clear that you know the world is changing dramatically, and you worry that your students are not getting the knowledge and skills they will need. You say you have read Friedman, also some Dan Pink, and recently saw a great animated video of a speech by Sir Ken Robinson on creativity. You just learned that students from Shanghai surpassed all other countries worldwide on the latest PISA exam of 15-year-olds. And you agree with Friedman who tells his own daughters an updated version of the old eat-your-supper-children-are-starving story: "Finish your homework. People in India and China are starving for your job."

You say that your district has been obsessed with meeting state standards. You have worked with the standards and know they are good, but also that the state tests measure basic content knowledge at best. You worry that these standards and even the new Common Core standards, which most states are adopting, are not enough and that your students, even if they master them and do well on the state tests, will still not have the knowledge and skills to compete with students all over the world. They won't have critical thinking. They won't have collaboration. They won't have communication. They won't have creativity. And more.

You realize that you will have to expand your curriculum so that your students will experience and then master these 4Cs. You realize you will also need to create classroom assessments, what some call performance assessments, to give feedback to students so they know how they are doing and can become more self-directed learners. There are a lot of new skills that you will have to develop professionally, and you could use some help.

A few school districts have done a lot to define and implement 21st century learning and teaching. These districts provide supports to teachers, including training, coaching, and professional learning communities, and even align their human resources and compensation systems to support these developments. But most districts are either at the beginning of this journey or are not on this path at all.

This poses quite a challenge to you and other teachers who may not have either district-based or school site-based supports for 21st century learning and teaching. But you are determined, nevertheless, to design learning experiences for your students that will engage them and ready them for the work and life in the globally competitive world of the second decade of the 21st century. You are determined to transform your own classroom. You are also willing to collaborate with colleagues to transform your school and even your district.

Authors Lydotta Taylor and Jill Fratto of the EdVenture Group have written this excellent book to pilot you on this journey. They have created a practical guidebook to help you hone your ability to make these changes using their Who Took My Chalk?™ model, a multiphase training program designed specifically for educators to help you set the stage for adapting to 21st century learning in your school.

There is much to be done and that you can do, say Taylor and Fratto. You can recognize the need or desire to change; assess your school culture and your personal attitude; set and achieve 21st century goals; communicate clearly to colleagues, parents, and sponsors; predict possible roadblocks; engage internal and external support; make it real in your classroom; and create and finalize your plan for success.

For Taylor, a former teacher, and Fratto, a management consultant, making it real in your classroom is the ultimate goal, but they know well it takes more than new pedagogies to produce a sustained transformation of teaching and learning even in a single classroom. It also takes clear goals, communication, school culture, and support.

Twenty-first-century teaching and learning aims to produce engaged, self-directed, and self-assessing learners. Taylor and Fratto provide excellent examples and resources to support this classroom change. This country is also rich with great practice that evolved in the last decade of the past century and the first decade of the new century. Innovative school models like New Tech Network, Big Picture, High Tech High, Envision Schools, EdVisions, and Expeditionary Learning have blazed the trail, and groups like the Buck Institute of Education and the George Lucas Educational Foundation's Edutopia have provided valuable resources and tools.

As teachers it is our own version of a Hippocratic Oath that makes us do what is best for our students to prepare them for their futures. Let's be ready to do 21st century teaching and learning together with all our colleagues at our school or in our district, but let's also get started and get it right for our own kids in our own classrooms.

Bob Pearlman is a 21st century school and district consultant. He is the former director of strategic planning for the New Technology Foundation, former president of the Autodesk Foundation, and a classroom teacher for 27 years. He can be reached at and