Progress on 21st century skills?

I’ve got to deliver a 15 minute presentation tomorrow on what we’re doing in good ol’ HCPS with regard to 21st century skills1. The audience is high level people from other local school districts. My goal is to let them see where we made some errors and hope they’ll then be able to avoid them. In a perfect world, I might also inspire them to try similar projects in the future with the goal of sharing both resources and expertise.


Step one, will be to discuss how we’ve tried to set a vision for what a 21st century classroom looks like. That’ll basically cover the evolution of the TIPc chart which I’ve already done here. The focus will be on the movement towards simplicity, student focus etc. I also intend to bring up the effectiveness of the TPCK model in having this discussion with teachers and administrators. It really seems to clarify things.

It’ll also be worth noting that this is now our mission statement.

Henrico County Public Schools, in partnership with the community, will inspire, empower, and educate every student to be prepared for success in the 21st century.

There are some interesting things you can read into that if you want to.


Step two, will cover how we’ve tried to share best practice and lessons. In my opinion, this has not gone well. Despite huge amounts of time and effort we simply do not share good practice and resources effectively. If you look at the content specific links here, you’ll notice that there’s a mixture of tools used (iWeb, blogs, Dreamweaver) and that many of the sites have been abandoned. Part of the reason for abandonment has been because of a push to put all these resources into shared object repositories in SchoolSpace (our Angel CMS).

It makes sense in a lot of ways to do something different. We have tried

  • intranet based systems based on a series of folder hierarchies
  • web based systems built in iWeb or Dreamweaver
  • shared object repositories

None of these systems really meet what I see as our total needs. One major aspect is the ability to hold conversations around specific pieces of content. The ironic thing is that this conversation is probably more valuable in terms of changing instruction than whatever piece of media inspired it, yet we do very little to encourage this type of communication. We also neglect the community and social aspects that need to be addressed, built, and continually focused on in order to get real change to happen.

So we’re trying to define what our needs are in that area.

  • What kind of content do we share?
  • How do we share content in ways that engage teachers?
  • How do we build conversation around ideas and concepts in ways that improve teaching?
  • How do we do all this in ways that are sustainable?
  • How do we design things so that the best content rises to the top?
  • What does the structure that does this look like?


We’re doing a voluntary program that’s been titled “reflective friends.”2 You can read about the process here.

Essentially, principals volunteer their school and then decide on what kind of data they want to collect on practice in their school. We meet with them and then come back with an outside team to collect that data. The data is then presented and we work with the administrators to provide support and direction

1 I have a number of issues with the label/concept but it does allow us to address a number of aspects which are positive.

2 Critical friends sounded too frightening. I have nothing nice to say about either title but the premise is good.