Meet the Panelists: Educating for 21st Century Success

On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 7-8:30 p.m., Robert C. Parker School will host Educating for 21st Century Success, an event that will bring innovative and oftentimes controversial leaders together for a panel discussion that promises to be a rare opportunity for Capital Region parents and educators.

Reading through their biographies, the panelists are an impressive bunch. But who are they, really? And what do they have to say about 21st Century success?

Meet the 21st Century Panelists

Moderator – Karen Hitchcock, former UAlbany President and Park Strategies Special Advisor

Dr. Hitchcock, despite a “distinguished career as an educator, research scientist and university administrator,” has weathered a few storms, including a troubled record as a university leader. But Hitchcock’s controversial past doesn’t tell the full story, and it’s much more interesting to explore her background in 21st Century education.

Dr. Hitchcock has long played a starring role in advancing 21st Century education in Northeast NY, not least for her part in bringing the first School of Nanosciences in the nation to our region. And yet, as an educator, I am even more intrigued by the learning resource that she created over eight years as co-host of the WAMC radio show, “The Best of our Knowledge.”

I spent a little time tracking down those “old” podcasts, which do not appear to be indexed for ease of navigation, but it was well worth the effort to learn from creative leaders and thinkers. I particularly enjoyed this episode that aired on May 22, 2006 which profiled a young Latina who overcame many obstacles, both educational and family-based, to pursue a career in engineering.


Susan Engel, Williams College professor and author, most recently of Red Flags or Red Herrings: Predicting Who Your Child Will Become,(Simon and Schuster, 2011.)

Author and psychologist Susan Engel is no stranger to controversy. In response to her New York Times’ Playing to Learn op-ed piece last year, Core Knowledge blogger Robert Pondiscio described her work as a “steaming gumbo of fads, failed ed school homilies and constructivist ideology.” And he goes on to decry loss of rigor and content in search of an elusive love of learning.

And yet, now the media is portraying her as a positive alternative to the Tiger Mom because she counsels families to forgo pushing children toward rigor, in favor of interests that will motivate lifelong learning. Moms and dads are advised that, “Parenting is not a job, it’s a relationship.”

As is often true for education and parenting experts, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Boris Pluskowski, thought leader in corporate Innovation Management and author of The Complete Innovator.

Either Boris Pluskowski is less controversial than the preceding panel participants, or he is a much more adept content curator of his personal brand. Given his views on essential social tools, I’m guessing the later.

We could turn to his blog, The Complete Innovator, to search his views on 21st Century skills, but it’s even more illustrative of his argument that you can just as easily find out what he thinks in his comments on other blogs.

In a reply to How the social media bubble will burst, he challenges that social media will mature and “stratify into various levels of competency” where it will evolve from being the social tools of businesses to emerge as a wider global human resource. And, in the same month, he concurs with Sarah Firisen on her BRAVE NEW WORLD? post for 3 Quarks Daily about the emerging needs of digital age children that,

The new socialised world will be complex, will be difficult to navigate and will require an entirely new set of skills than the world we were brought up with. Whereas in the past we valued individual knowledge, I wonder if in the future we won’t instead value the ability to connect with people and cultivate an collaborative knowledge store that can be leveraged to drive value (in whatever form that needs to happen)

Does the threat of full transparency mean that you can/should no longer post anything? Absolutely not – in the new world, having nothing online is just as bad as having damaging information – rather the skill set for managing what’s shown and how it’s shown will need to be developed.

Trudy Hall, independent schools leader and Head of Emma Willard School

Is it even the slightest bit controversial to be an advocate of single-sex education? If so, one could argue that Trudy Hall is a bit of a radical. But that’s a stretch since there is nothing new about it. Speaking for Emma Willard School in The Great Debate: Public vs. Private High Schools, she says,

What we bring to the table is a long tradition of single-sex education,” “We’re proud of it and see it as extraordinarily viable. It’s not the least bit outdated — if anything, there’s been an increase in the demand for single-sex education.” Hall notes that studies show girls learn differently than boys do. Therefore, it benefits them to be in an environment focused solely on one gender.

…She adds that, regardless of whether kids opt for the private or public high school route, the stakes are higher these days. “I worry about secondary schools now,” she says, “because the college marketplace is tighter than it’s ever been. So all of us in secondary schools are doing whatever we can to ensure that students, boys or girls, have appropriate developmental progress in high school. If that doesn’t happen, you’re not as well-served later in life.”

A true innovator in education, she is one of the leaders behind the Global Forum for Girls’ Education (AUDACIA) initiative that will bring 250 invitation-only  participants to share and learn about cutting-edge research and best practices on education and gender equality, social change, economic development, and violence prevention.

But what is truly an example of 21st century collaboration is that the knowledge gained from this event will not be limited to what is shared at the conference.The group behind this AUDACIA forum promise to have an online platform up in April. Maybe I’m an optimist, but I’m hoping that it will be draw on what is emerging as the new trends of media in the digital age: global, national, local, and hyper-local content leveraged across online, mobile, tablet, and video platforms.

Dan Wallace, Senior Producer at Vicarious Visions/Activision for Guitar Hero

For a practical example of 21st Century success, we will hear from Dan Wallace, a Senior Producer at Vicarious Visions who supervises a team of 120 whose skills range from specialties range from the creative arts to applied sciences.

Vicarious Visions’ commitment to the promotion of STEM education is evident in this video which shows kids why they need to study math and science if they want a career in video game development.

What can we expect at the panel discussion?

I suspect that these panelist will agree more than they disagree about 21st century success, and how parents and educators can help children attain it. Far from being controversial, I imagine that it will be inspirational.

Don’t Miss It!

Educating for 21st Century Success

Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 7 – 8:30 PM
Robert C. Parker School
4254 NY State Highway 43
North Greenbush, NY 12198


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