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Past, Present, and Future: Jane Addams, Broadband and 21st Century Skills


Date posted: September 6, 2013

Google_Doodle-1Today’s Google Doodle was in recognition of Jane Addams’ birthday. Addams (1860-1935) was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work for women’s suffrage and world peace. She was most known for establishing Hull House, the first Settlement House in the US, providing a residence for woman, adult education classes, Kindergarten, and more.

In Addams’ time, information and training were scarce commodities, available in libraries, newspapers, schools and places like Hull House.

As kids go back to school today, they exist in a world in which information about anything is available at the tap of their finger on a tablet or smart phone. Training is available through You Tube videos, online classes or MOOCs. Jane Addams was ahead of her time, but she could not have imagined this!

NCTA_InfographicToday’s infographic from NCTA shows just how connected students are.

All too often, Jane Addams could walk into a classroom today and find it very familiar and comfortable.

In this information-rich, wired and wireless world, what schools bring to the table is not injecting children with a giant syringe of facts and formulae. They can get that anytime they like. What schools must do is help kids learn how to find, manage, analyze, evaluate, use and create information; help kids learn how to think critically and solve problems, communicate effectively, collaborate with others, and be creative innovators. These are often referred to as 21st century skills.

For the past year I’ve had the privilege of chairing the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. I’ve seen schools and districts that have made the leap to this new vision of education that puts the student at the center of learning; that has teachers acting as facilitators and guides; that is preparing children for the future they’ll face when they graduate and not for the world Jane Addams saw when she opened Hull House in 1889.