Frequently Asked Questions

What is 21st Century Literacy?

21st Century Literacy can mean many things, but basically it is the skills students need to succeed in school and the workplace in today’s world. Our focus is on the reading and writing skills teenagers need and can be taught using journalistic methods and new digital tools. Other educational groups focus on other elements of 21st Century literacy, including digital media production, transmedia, and content creation. We choose to focus on text, and our curricular units will help you to do so in your classroom.


Why is it important?

25 years ago, children only read books or magazines and were much less surrounded by media message all around them. Now they must absorb all sorts of information from a variety of sources, at all times. So it becomes even more important, as they encounter blogs, advertisements, editorials, non fiction articles and essays that they are able to evaluate these sources for credibility, bias, and factuality. As they progress through life, they will also be asked to write for different audiences, and so they should learn the appropriate ways of doing so. They must know how to do research, find sources efficiently and effectively and attribute the work they use in their own creations. They need to become aware of the content creation tools available on the Internet, and how to collaborate with others.


Who can teach these lessons?

We have written our lessons to fit into a 9th grade English class curriculum. However, some of our material could be appropriate for a younger audience and other units could be used by older high school students or even in college classrooms. The lessons come with teacher notes, as well as many appendices that have the introductions to the skills and information for teachers who may be new to some of the tools or approaches. We have created the site to be modular and user-friendly, to allow a teacher to easily integrate the lessons into his or her class with minimal preparation or additional research required. We have also provided ways for teachers to rate and comment on the lessons, provide feedback, and join a discussion group with other teachers teaching the curriculum. The curriculum has a Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use the content in any educational context.


Who are the authors of the lesson plans?

The authors of the lessons plans are a group of award winning veteran English and Journalism teachers, Stanford University Masters’ students studying technology integration in education, and researchers from companies interested in preparing children to succeed in the world we live in today. See the Who We Are page for more information.


How do I use your curriculum?

There are lots of ways to go about using our site. You can first review the titles and description of the modules and see if any catch your eye or fit into your greater classroom goals. Or perhaps you have identified skills such as web search or information evaluation that you find lacking in your students. There are specific skills lessons that teach these directly, or you can filter the lessons to find ones that have the students practice these skills. By all means, look through the site, and see what best fits with your classroom goals. If you do not see a lesson or module you think would be important to include, let us know!

We encourage you to teach entire modules. The lessons are designed to build on one another sequentially, and most modules have a larger project or anchor task at the end which emphasizes the enduring understanding of the module. If you are looking to teach specific skills, feel free to use individual lessons or incorporate them into your own curriculum. While teaching these individual lessons, we encourage to keep in mind our strategies for teaching 21st Century skills, which you can find on our Philosophy page, and on the individual Modules page.

Also, at the end of each lesson we have provided a comment box and a rating system. After teaching, or simply reviewing the lesson, teachers are encouraged to provide feedback. After piloting the curriculum in a variety of schools in during the 2010-2011 school year, we will redesign the curriculum, emphasizing the lessons that work well, and fixing any that do not.


How do I get involved with your organization?

As mentioned, if you use a lesson, or even just review it and could give us some feedback, please do. You can rate the lesson using the star system, and by all means, write us a message about your experience using the curriculum in the comment box. If you would like to get even more involved, become a pilot teacher of the curriculum, or help us write more lessons, please email us!