As educators, knowing about the 21st-century skills is important and being able to recognize the skills within specific examples is an indicator that you truly understand them and how they work in application. In Week One, we discussed the story of Caine and his arcade as a way to explore how culture influences creativity, imagination, and inventiveness. In this discussion, we go a step further by considering 21st-century skills in relation to another inspiring story of creativity, imagination, and inventiveness.
The Landfill Harmonic project showcases the story of a garbage picker, a music teacher, and a group of children from a Paraguayan slum that, out of necessity, started creating instruments entirely out of garbage found in a landfill.
Your reflections on this story will provide a rich backdrop for learning more about the impact that social and cross-cultural skills have on the more academic pursuit of keeping children engaged in learning 21st-century skills. After reviewing this week’s Instructor Guidance material, you will have a good working knowledge of social and cross-cultural skills and will be able to recognize how they might support the learning of 21st-century skills, especially within the Landfill Harmonic project.
Initial Post: View the The landfill harmonic orchestraLinks to an external site. video about the Landfill Harmonic project, and then view more specific information about the project on the Landfill HarmonicLinks to an external site. website. Next, review the Framework for 21st Century LearningLinks to an external site. web page. Then, create an initial post that addresses the following in at least one paragraph for each:
- Describe the Learning and Innovation 4Cs (i.e., communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity) (click on the 4Cs Research Series tab on the right-hand side of the page) as well as Life and Career Skills from the Framework for 21st Century Learning (see item 4 under 21st Century Student Outcomes) that you perceive the students learned and applied as a result of their participation in the Landfill Harmonic project.
- Describe the cultural competencies you perceive were demonstrated by the students in the Landfill Harmonic project (these are summarized in the Instructor Guidance for this week).
- Describe the social factors and attitudes you perceive were needed to initiate the project, including a consideration of the cross-cultural skills that may be necessary for supporters to sustain the Landfill Harmonic project.
Have you ever participated in a major creative ensemble like a band, orchestra or stage production? What about contributing to a team in other ways, like sports or church groups? If so, take a moment to consider all the different types of skills you learned participating in group activities outside school. It’s easy to readily identify activity-specific skills, like the musical skills learned as a member of a band or orchestra. The motor skills needed to contribute to a sports team might be easy to identify as well. But a closer look at such activities also reveals many other possible skill sets learned and applied through participating in such endeavors. Communication skills, problem-solving skills, constructive collaboration skills (including leadership skills), and even creativity skills are facilitated in some capacity within most group activities. These types of skills reside outside the scope of traditional subject-area skills typically promoted in school, but they are certainly skills that are applied daily in people’s lives outside school. They are “worthwhile,” and they form the core of the 21st century skills identified in by the Partnership for 21st Century SkillsLinks to an external site..
This week, you will learn the basic components of learning experiences aligned with the principles of culturally relevant pedagogy. These principles reflect a direct application of the roles culture play in teaching and learning that were introduced last week. The week begins with an analysis of an inspiring story about an orchestra that was created by residents of a Latin American slum situated within a landfill, using instruments fashioned out of the surrounding garbage. The musicians are school-aged children from the slum itself, and a closer examination of the forces involved in the orchestra’s creation makes it easy to identify the role culture can play in helping to define meaningful, purposeful learning contexts that support the learning of worthwhile 21st century skills. This activity will contribute toward your expertise in evaluating how integrating social and cross-cultural skills supports 21st century learning experiences for diverse populations, and how acquisition of 21st century skills through culturally relevant learning opportunities supports student achievement.
Following the “Landfill Harmonics” analysis is a personal analysis of factors in the world outside school that influence and affect success inside school. Of course, there is no better way to do this than to examine the factors in your own life right now that influences your success in online graduate school learning. Such critical reflections can help you learn more about how challenges students face outside of school affect their ability to achieve academically and socially in school. This is important because it helps you further recognize the value of adopting more culturally relevant instructional approaches in classroom learning experiences.
Finally, you will view a dynamic presentation by a high school student who tries to explain why he thinks kids hate school. Spoiler alert: it reflects the same reasons many adults in your situation might hate college. OK, hate is a strong word. But how is this for a strong word: RELEVANCE. According to the high school presenter, kids his age hate high school because they do not see the relevance of what they are learning in school to their lives outside school.
Why might high school students feel this way? Is it THEIR fault they don’t see the relevance?
Once of the greatest characteristics of culturally relevant pedagogy is that it helps educators consider relevance from the perspective of the students they teach. In the final assignment for the week, you are asked to consider how a culturally relevant approach to a specific student’s educational experiences might have enabled greater success in school.
The skills promoted through this week’s activities will help you successfully accomplish part of the final project as well. These skills relate to designing culturally relevant instructional experiences that naturally facilitate a number of 21st century skills
Before you continue reading, please take a couple minutes to view the video clip above from the 1999 science fiction classic move The Matrix.
This week, you will watch another video that presents a very earnest and interesting indictment of education from a student currently enrolled in high school. In the video, Nikhil Goyal reflects on the reasons why he and other students like him hate school. The central theme is one of relevance, or more precisely, school’s lack of it. He makes a deliberate cultural reference to his generation taking the red pill (as opposed to the blue pill), which in the movie The Matrix represents the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red pill) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue pill). In light of this, he spends most of his time telling the story of Nick Perez, a boy who was marginalized in school and medicated so that he could fit into the parameters of thought and behavior expected of him. He became disillusioned by the lack of relevancy and interest in his studies, and disenfranchisement eventually led him to drop out of school. However, he developed a passion for computer coding after attending an informal education computer camp, and the rest, as they say, is history. He taught himself everything he needed to secure a good job as a computer programming, and he is currently (and successfully) employed with an advertising firm…and he loves his job. All of this without formal education.
You will analyze Nikhil’s messages about Nick Perez and try to consider some culturally relevant solutions to the obvious educational challenges posed. What could have helped Nick succeed in school is what can help many students from diverse backgrounds succeed in school but defining success requires educators to make very sobering decisions about WHAT is important to be learned. The “red pill” of truth for educators might not simply reflect the notion that HOW they might be teaching is not reaching all students, but also WHAT they are trying to help their students learn may be outdated an irrelevant in our 21st century world. Recognizing this truth is one of the important assumptions that this course makes about learning. Related to this assumption are all the following assumptions this course makes:
- 21st century skills matter tremendously in the real world outside school and should be addressed more explicitly by professional educators.
- Creativity and innovation reflect categories of 21st century skills that can help teachers provide more successful culturally-relevant experiences for their students.
- Facilitating cultural outcomes or competencies is an important component of culturally relevant pedagogy.
These assumptions are based on a more progressive philosophical belief that schools have a responsibility to facilitate skills that go beyond simply addressing basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills. This week, these assumptions will be applied within three distinct learning activities designed to help you learn the following specific skills:
- Evaluate how integrating social and cross-cultural skills supports 21st century learning experiences for diverse populations.
- Illustrate how acquisition of 21st century skills through culturally relevant learning opportunities supports student achievement.
- Relate challenges students face outside of school to their ability to achieve academically and socially.
A critical factor in this course and in many subsequent courses you will take in the Master of Arts in Education (MAED) Program is that of 21st century skills and the overall framework in which these skills are organized. Navigate to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ Framework for 21st Century LearningLinks to an external site. page to learn more.
Cultural competencies reflect another important set of skills that complement many of the 21st century skills. Instruction designed to facilitate these competencies is a very important part of the model for culturally relevant pedagogy presented by Ladson-Billing (1995). After reading this important work, you should have a better understanding of the following four important cultural competencies:
- Awareness of one’s own cultural worldview (including biases)
- Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews
- Positive attitudes and open-mindedness toward cultural differences
- Ability to work successfully with others from different cultures
The Ladson-Billings article also provides the general background for establishing a model for culturally relevant instruction. To reinforce this understanding, read all of Chapter Ten in Wardle (2013). A basic summary of strategies defining culturally relevant instruction include the following:
- Maximizing academic success through relevant instructional experiences
- Addressing cultural competence through reinforcing students’ cultural integrity
- Involving students in the construction of knowledge
- Building on students’ interests and linguistic resources
- Tapping home and community resources
- Understanding students’ cultural knowledge
- Using interactive and constructivist teaching strategies
- Examining the curriculum from multiple perspectives
- Promoting critical consciousness through opportunities to challenge predominant elements of the students’ social norms
Your design in the final course assignment (Week Six) will be evaluated based in part on these criteria, so it is very important for you to understand them and apply them to the design of culturally relevant instruction.
Another important skill set that will be applied throughout the coming weeks is identifying how challenges that students face outside of school affect them academically and socially in school. Read Wardle Chapters 8 and 11 to better understand such connections.
Next week you will learn more about culturally relevant instruction and its applications within the real world, particularly as it affects the teaching and learning of 21st century skills–skills that matter.
Discussion Response Expectations
Discussion: Your first discussion post asks you to analyze the factors that likely contributed to the development of the Landfill Harmonics program and determine the types of 21st century skills supported by the project.
For example, if you grew up in a home where reading was not modeled or discussed much, you may have had difficulties in school getting excited about reading. A broader example is growing up at or below the poverty level. Direct effects of this might include less parental involvement, due to parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet, which is known to result in less attention to homework and lower rates of success by students in school. Keep in mind that some challenges may not have been negative. For example, you might have been bullied at home, and the effects may have been either negative (you bullied others in school and were removed from the classroom regularly) or positive (you were more empathetic to kids who got bullied, made lots of friends, and had positive social interactivity in school).
- Cultural competencies
- Culturally relevant pedagogy
After viewing a presentation by a high school student about why kids don’t like school, you will recommend strategies that might have helped one high school drop-out profiled in the presentation. These strategies are based on your emerging understanding of culturally relevant instruction that might have had a positive impact on one student who dropped out of school.
If you are enrolled in the MAED Program, it is imperative that you keep copies of all assignments completed in this course. You will return to them for the portfolio that you will create in your final MAED course. This portfolio is a culminating project that will demonstrate that you have met program outcomes.
MovieClips. (2011, March 26). Blue Pill or Red Pill – The Matrix (2/9) Movie CLIP (1999) HDLinks to an external site. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://
Ladson-Billing, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159-164.
Partnership for 21st Century SkillsLinks to an external site. (http://
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Framework for 21st century learningLinks to an external site.. Retrieved from http://
Wardle, F, (2013). Human relationships and learning in the multicultural environment. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Wardle, F. (2013). Human relationships and learning in the multicultural environment [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/
Discrimination in Curricula and Pedagogy
- Chapter 4: Addressing Racism and Discrimination in Curricula and Pedagogy
- Chapter 8: The Impact of Diversity on Learning
Jammer jhed. (2012, December 13). The landfill harmonic orchestra. Retrieved from the Landfill Harmonic OrchestraLinks to an external site..
Teachers Lounge (2014, February 11). Why kids hate school?: Nikhil Goyal at [email protected] to an external site. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/0Iz4APbOOcI
Framework for 21st century learningLinks to an external site.. (2007). Retrieved from http:// article provides information about 21st Century Learning and will assist you in the Discussions and the Assignment this week, as well as in future weeks.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy [PDF]. Theory Into Practice, 34(3), 159-165. Retrieved from https://nationalequityproject.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/ladson-billings_1995.pdf
- The full-text version of this article is available through the Proquest database in the Ashford University Library. This article provides information about issues related to cultural relevance, funds of knowledge, and teaching may assist you in the Discussions and Assignment this week, as well as future Assignments.