Global IT giants work to bring 21st-century teaching to schools

14 Jan 2009

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Cisco, Intel and Microsoft have banded together to develop new assessment approaches, methods and technologies for measuring the success of 21st-century teaching and learning in classrooms around the world.

The assessment research and development (R&D) project spearheaded by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft has received the support of major international assessment organisations.

Specifically, OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development] and the International Association of the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) have expressed interest in using the evidence-based and verifiable output of the 21st-century skills assessment to inform the development of the next versions of PISA and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), their respective international benchmarks.

The three companies also announced the appointment of Barry McGaw, currently the director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, as executive director of the project.

McGaw will oversee an executive committee, project lead team and up to 50 leading experts and innovators in academia and government, to collaborate on the research and assist in influencing the development of future international and national assessments.

“Shrinking resources and market pressures mean that education can no longer be the sole responsibility of governments,” McGaw said.

“Building the future workforce will require a commitment from the private sector to partner with public institutions. Reforming assessment is essential to enabling any systemic change in education. And change on a global scale is required to equip students of today with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce of tomorrow.”

The assessment R&D project spearheaded by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft has received the support of major international assessment organizations.

Specifically, OECD and the International Association of the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) have expressed interest in using the evidence-based and verifiable output of the 21st-century skills assessment to inform the development of the next versions of PISA and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), their respective international benchmarks.

“In the global economy, it is the world’s best-performing education systems, not simply improvement by national standards, that have become the yardstick for educational success,” said Andreas Schleicher, head of Education Indicators and Analysis, OECD.

“That is why more and more countries measure the relative strengths and weaknesses of their education systems with OECD’s global PISA assessments. To do so effectively, it is crucially important that these assessments continue to evolve to reflect the skills that matter for individuals and economies. Technology-based assessments will be critical to this, and the project brings together key partners that can help PISA make this happen.”

“IEA is committed to the greater integration of IT into all its assessments, especially TIMSS and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study,” said Seamus Hegarty, chair of the IEA. “This reflects the changes in learning environments and the potential of technology to enhance the teaching and learning process. We look forward to working with the collaboration to achieve our common goals for young learners.”

Based on extensive research, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft concluded that most education systems have not kept pace with the dramatic changes in the economy and the skill sets that are required for students to succeed. These skills include the ability to think critically and creatively; to work co-operatively; and to adapt to the evolving use of technology in business and society.

The project will focus on several key areas that will offer the most promising opportunities for transforming education and assessment. Teams of educators and academics will focus on enabling education assessment methodologies and technologies, effective learning environments and replicable ICT-enabled teaching and assessment methods that foster the development and assessment of the skills students will need to succeed.

To accelerate the project in time to influence the next versions of PISA and TIMSS, the project will review successful classroom practices for the teaching and testing of 21st-century skills and draw implications for large-scale assessments.

“Cisco believes a holistic transformation of the global educational system requires a long-term, multi-stakeholder commitment from the public and private sector,” said Michael Stevenson, vice president of Global Education, Cisco.

“We believe the collaboration between Cisco, Intel and Microsoft can serve as an impetus in creating and implementing an international assessment standard to measure skills and abilities that are critical for student success in the 21st century.”

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com