Chart a New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World

Focused on what students need to know to prepare well for the future.

BOOK REVIEW | by Mark Gura

Long overdue change seems to be what’s in the cards for the field of Education these days. The time is especially ripe, therefore, for solid guidance in assuring that students are taught what they really need in ways that will maximize their learning.

Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World by Rachelle Dene Poth was released by ISTE, its publisher, a short while back. It seems to me to have a good deal of the right stuff.

“In my experience, there’s nothing like seeing the purpose behind teaching something to put more ‘best’ into best practice.”

This book offers a much needed dive into and swim-around a crucial area of reflection and action for today’s educators: ‘what are the essential skills for tomorrow’s world and how to teach them?’

I find that so much material published these days is intended to launch teachers into deep pools of ‘How To’ – and that’s often a good thing if done right. This book, however, brings into greater focus the ‘What To’ and the ‘Why To’ of providing today’s students with experiences directed at their growth and preparation for the world they’ll encounter after graduating.

In ‘Chart a New Course’, Dene Poth points us to a handful of areas of learning that seem to me to be highly relevant and precisely what today’s kids should be learning. Interestingly, and importantly, too, these are not necessarily brand new things; they are simply the right things.

Some are fairly familiar progressive practices. For instance, project-based activities like student podcasting, blogging, and online comic strip creation. And while these are approaches that masses of teachers have heard of, a great many may still have not actually tried them. This author’s offerings come off in many cases as fresh takes. In my experience, there’s nothing like seeing the purpose behind teaching something to put more ‘best’ into best practice. Importantly, this book’s practices are focused on what kids need to know to prepare well for the future.

And, of course, there are newer areas of learning covered in the book, as well. One of which, establishing and maintaining an effective and supportive online presence, without doubt will be essential for tomorrow’s adept workers and competent citizens.

This book gives both more established and newly introduced approaches it presents new life and greater meaning through its all-important context of skills essential for tomorrow’s world.

Among the areas of Teaching and Learning explored, the following resonated for me especially harmoniously…

Creativity.

Yes! Creativity is a must, essential skill set for tomorrow’s world and informed teachers will make it a priority goal.

In my own book, “Make, Learn, Succeed – Building a Culture of Creativity in Your School”,  I probed deeply into understanding creativity and how to foster it in our classrooms. Rachelle’s exploration here picks up that thread. She counsels teachers to “Consider whether you would like to be a student in your own classroom” and poses the edgy questions, “Would you be challenged or bored?” And this book offers plenty of ways to keep kids challenged through creativity – creating infographics, vlogs, augmented/virtual reality experiences, digital geographical scavenger hunts, and more. Yes, the right stuff!          

Communication and Storytelling

Similarly, in the acts of creating, solution authoring, and applying fresh ideas to problems, telling The Story is essential to making change happen as is clear communication, in general, in collaborating and working.

It’s very good to see these themes assert themselves among the very rich body of concepts and practices that surround them throughout the book. Communication, a long term, traditional staple of the curriculum is of extremely high relevance for today’s kids and is explored very nicely here. One segment I’m happy to point to is titled Promoting Learning Through Digital Storytelling. I like how that’s put, it conjures up for me the understanding that while kids learn how to tell stories effectively, much ancillary learning comes along for the ride.

This book clearly benefits from spirited and creative editing offering features of high worth not seen all that often. Throughout, one finds the voices and observations of experienced colleagues. These are tagged as ‘educator stories’ and refreshingly, ‘student stories’ and through them the reader is afforded a good sense of how this author has anchored her book in authentic, eminently implementable, practical classroom reality, something I much appreciate in professional materials. Matching those are author reflections tagged ‘lessons learned along the way’; exactly the type of thing a mentor should share. The ISTE Standards, by the way, has a dedicated section and references throughout the book, as well.

Rachelle has generously shared much seat-of-the-pants wisdom acquired in her own classroom, hoping to guide and nourish colleague readers. Headings throughout the book with titles like “Where to Start: Resources and Ideas” speak strongly to that. I’ve finally put the book down (for now), savoring the way it delivers on the promise made on the cover’s sub-title, “a guide to teaching essential skills for tomorrow’s world!”

And yes, we very much need such guides. In fact, I can’t think of anything more needed by today’s teachers.

Mark Gura is Editor-at-Large for EdTech Digest and author of Make, Learn, Succeed: Building a Culture of Creativity in Your School (ISTE), and co-author of State of EdTech: The Minds Behind What’s Now and What’s Next. He taught at New York City public schools in East Harlem for two decades. He spent five years as a curriculum developer for the central office and was eventually tapped to be the New York City Department of Education’s director of the Office of Instructional Technology, assisting over 1,700 schools serving 1.1 million students in America’s largest school system. In addition to his role at EdTech Digest, he is currently a professor at Touro College


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