One of the challenges – and opportunities – in education, is to strike a balance between being proactive and reactive to current trends or philosophies. This is readily apparent at a college-preparatory school like Ravenscroft whose mission includes preparing students for the world to come in college and beyond. Ten years into the 21st century, one can find many suggestions for skills and traits our graduates should possess. With such different paradigms, it becomes incumbent upon us, as educators, to articulate exactly what these skills and traits should be.

This is exactly what Ravenscroft’s Plus 10 Committee has begun to do. This institutional think tank, comprised of faculty from all three divisions, serves as a source of vision. Most recently, the committee looked at structures for 21st learning, including those of The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the International Society for Technology in Education, and The Buck Institute for Education. We collaborated and engaged in discussion with the goal of crafting Ravenscroft’s paradigm of 21st century skills, and our work will continue throughout this year.

Several themes surfaced repeatedly; common skills mentioned include collaboration, creativity, and communication. One other trait, adaptability, has been widely acknowledged as a key factor for success. After all, if one learns to adapt, hopefully one can make the most of a rapidly changing world. Part of our charge in Middle School is to help our students learn to adapt in a way that provides comfort rather than stress. Such an effort requires good planning and organization, something we most recently demonstrated with our Chromebook pilot, an initiative that required flexibility on the part of faculty, students, and parents.

Once the pilot program was announced, Middle School faculty and administration worked closely with our Information and Instructional Technology department to ensure our teachers were prepared to operate “in the cloud.” We began with an introduction and exploration into the many ways we could use Google Apps for Education, including Google Docs, to engage our students in collaboration with each other and their teachers. Though the pilot rolled out in seventh grade, our sixth and eighth grade faculty excitedly engaged in professional development and use of Google Apps.

Seventh-grade faculty borrowed Chromebooks over Thanksgiving Break to develop familiarity, learning to adapt aspects of their teaching style to this new tool. The result, once Chromebooks were placed in the hands of our seventh grade kids, was and continues to be fantastic! Parents of seventh graders were able to see the results of our efforts at the recent Raven Explorers event, which showcased collaboration, creativity, and oral speaking skills.

One quick anecdote – when discussing adaptability, our Assistant Head of Middle School shared that her mother, at 88, was a bit frustrated when her computer was down. Not being able to email her friends and family and unable to resolve the issue herself, she ended up calling the “Geek Squad” for help. It made me reflect that if we, at Ravenscroft, can help ourselves and our kids be as adaptable, our job is well done!

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