Voice from the Field
The Gateway to 21st Century Skills
Joann Wasik and Peggy James — Friday, February 17, 2012
About The Gateway to 21st Century Skills
The JES & Co. team has launched a revamped Gateway to 21st Century Skills (Gateway), one of the oldest digital libraries containing thousands of educational resources ranging from activities to online projects. Improvements to the Gateway include Facebook integration, rating and commenting, and correlation to the Common Core State Standards. The Gateway’s resources have been contributed by 700 quality organizations and serve educators in 178 countries, and its use continues to be free of charge. Originally funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Gateway is now sponsored by the National Education Association.
By Joann Wasik, Author of the Gateway’s Column “Joann’s Picks”
I am very excited to announce that we have unveiled a new and improved Gateway. While more information on the new features and capabilities of the site will be featured in the future, I would like to tell you what you can expect to find in my column.
As the Gateway’s resident librarian, my column discusses a new topic of interest to educators each week and highlights educational resources that address that topic in creative or noteworthy ways. My colleague, Peggy James, further discusses those resources and others in her companion column and offers additional instructional ideas for incorporating such resources and topics into the classroom.
Each day throughout the week I also present additional resources on the week’s topic on our Facebook and Twitter pages, on which users can offer additional comments and prompt discussion. It is a great way for teachers, parents who homeschool, and other education professionals to provide feedback and discuss subjects and issues that pop up in the classroom. We hope you will check those pages regularly and contribute to the discussion!
Each week I look for Gateway resources that address a current topic of interest, respond to users’ requests, or simply pique my interest as a neat subject that has maybe been overlooked or offers innovative ideas for the classroom. I like highlighting resources that can be used across the curriculum or resources that make creative use of technology.
I am especially excited by resources that address material in perhaps unexpected ways that will not only engage students but also hopefully spark some new instructional ideas for teachers. For example, one Gateway lesson has students use math and evidence from text sections of Harry Potter to figure out the size of the character Hagrid, incorporating a nice math dimension to what could be a straightforward language arts unit. Likewise, this lesson on tessellations introduces students to math concepts used in art as they create “beasties” inspired by medieval bestiaries. Sometimes education by stealth methods are the most fun, right?
It is no secret that students are extremely tech-savvy, and in our columns, Peggy and I frequently feature ideas and resources that address 21st century skills. There are increasing numbers of educators who are incorporating technology into the curriculum in new and novel ways, whether it is using iPods for teaching students with dyslexia, Twitter for teaching summarization and foreign language skills, or Skype to illustrate digital storytelling concepts and exchange cultural and language information with students in different countries. This high school lesson on communicable diseases, for example, has students use embedded QR codes for additional information and activities.
In short, the goal of my column is to introduce users each week to the wealth of resources available through the Gateway, to tempt educators to explore subjects in new ways, and to integrate topics into existing lessons in a way that they have not before. So welcome to the new Gateway—we are so glad that you have joined us!
By Peggy James, Author of the Gateway’s Column “Peggy’s Corner”
Joann did a wonderful job of explaining the goals of our weekly columns. I would like to join her in welcoming you to the new Gateway and inviting you to make the Gateway an integral part of your teaching. As you explore, you will find thousands of resources that include lesson plans, activities, units, and examples of best practices. When you choose a resource to use in your classroom, you will be able to see the alignment of that resource to your state standards and share that resource with your colleagues. It is a simple way to find and share standards-aligned resources.
I work with Joann each week to pick a timely and useful topic as the subject of our weekly columns and featured resources. These themes often relate to current or historical events, questions that come up in discussions on our Facebook and Twitter pages for educators, and hot topics in education news and blogs. These weekly themes are widely varied, and we include examples of resources for as many grade levels as possible. We alternate between different subject areas to ensure that our columns are as useful as possible to the educators we are supporting.
Each week in her column, Joann features a few resources to help educators introduce that week’s theme to their students. As the Gateway’s resident teacher, I build on Joann’s discussion and featured resources to bring a classroom connection to the topic. This can mean something different each week. Some weeks I feature more Gateway resources that cover the topic from different angles. Other weeks I discuss web-based tools that will be useful for introducing the theme in the classroom. Sometimes I discuss related issues that come up on our Facebook and Twitter discussions and in the discussions we follow online.
All of our weekly columns are archived on our blog site, so if you are looking for support in a particular area, you can search the archives. We will continue to rely on educators for ideas on new weekly themes to cover. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to help guide the direction of this important part of the new Gateway!
Joann Wasik is a Metadata Cataloger on The Gateway for 21st Century Skills. Her primary responsibilities for the Gateway include locating and cataloging standards-based K-12 lessons and activities for the Gateway, as well as writing the “Joann’s Picks” weekly column. Joann holds B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English from Boston College and an M.L.S. degree from Syracuse University.
Peggy Jams received her B.S. in molecular and cellular biology from The University of Arizona and continued on to earn her M.Ed. from The University of Arizona as well. She has taught physical science and chemistry at the high school level. She has a passion for teaching critical thinking and creativity in the classroom. Peggy is very excited to help create a collaborative environment for educators to discover new resources that will enhance their teaching.