Upper Arlington schools' 21st-century teaching team is in its fifth year of working with teachers to integrate "21st-century learning" into the curriculum.

Upper Arlington schools' 21st-century teaching team is in its fifth year of working with teachers to integrate "21st-century learning" into the curriculum.

Associate Superintendent Debora Binkley said the teachers on the team are Martha Barley, Jeanne Beaver, Toby Fischer, Cathy Johnson, Andrea Lusk and Alexa Stazenski. Jeff Elliott, a former member of the group, is teaching full-time in the classroom this year.

"The team formed from our strategic plans in 2005 and 2009, where we wanted to create coaches to help teachers integrate new technology into their class lessons," she said. "We put tech aides in each building first, then changed their titles and named them integration coaches for 21st-century skills."

The term "21st-century learning" is batted around a lot in educational circles, but parents might ask, "What is it?"

Binkley said Ken Kay, who served as president of a state program called Partnership for 21st Century Skills, has been working with the integration team to define those skills for teachers.

"It includes teaching things like approaches to learning, such as using complex thinking," she said. "A complex thinker first identifies and defines the central question, then analyzes relevant information and explores and develops solutions."

Kay explained the term during 2008 testimony in front of a national committee.

He wrote that the skills include developing "international perspectives and solutions and applying tangible skills like language proficiency, along with less tangible skills such as cultural sensitivity, openness to novel and diverse ideas and the ability to adjust to changing landscapes."

He said students should be able to think critically and make judgments about the "barrage of information" from the Web, in the media, homes and workplaces, plus possess the ability to solve "complex, multidisciplinary, open-ended problems" and collaborate with teams of people "across cultural, geographic and language boundaries."

Students well-versed in 21st-century learning have an "entrepreneurial mindset" and can use modern technology competently to accomplish their work and manage their lives, while they "create, communicate and collaborate," Kay said.

Binkley said the 21st-century skills would be integrated with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in grades six through 10.

"Teachers learn what a communicator or a collaborator looks like and what a complex thinker looks like," she said. "We have seen these skills begin to be demonstrated by our students, where they have authentic questions and then become problem-solvers."

For instance, she said, the community garden at Tremont Elementary began with a unit on hunger.

"The students incorporated their study on hunger with a service learning project," she said. "They created a community garden, then asked the question, 'What happens in June? How do we get people to help with the garden when school ends?'"

Binkley said creating the team meant making sure all were successful teachers who were also versed in curriculum, instruction and technology skills.

She said a 40-member district advisory team of administrators, community members and board members spent a year working together to identify which of the 21st-century skills they would focus on.

She said complex thinking and problem-solving are a major focus.

"Our teachers have worked to develop rubrics on the skills so that teachers know what complex thinking, analytical thinking and problem-solving would look like in a classroom," she said.