Tech Tools for the Everyday Teacher

Just skimming the surface

21st Century Skills

I am currently finishing up my master’s program at the University of Colorado.  I have been researching 21st century skills and trying to discover how education will change in the near future.  For those of you who haven’t looked into 21st century skills the major components include: creativity, communication, collaboration, critical-thinking, media literacy, and global awareness.

If you wish to see an animation that depicts the 4 c’s please watch the following – it was just released by Partnership for 21st century skills and Fablevision:

Many of you may be thinking… well aren’t these skills old skills?  What makes them 21st century skills?  The idea behind them is that modern jobs and future challenges will require students to be adept at these skills – which identifies them as 21st century skills.

So why do people make a fuss about them?  There is actually quite a large movement against 21st century skills.  Many people are afraid of schools emphasizing these skills and replacing common core content.  Honestly, if you work in schools you know that as soon as someone identifies something new for you to focus on in the classroom – something else will need to go on the backburner.  So if schools are going to have to focus on 21st century skills then content may have to go on the backburner… slightly.  That being said: we live in an age where the average young person (8-18) spends 6 hours a day in front of media devices.  They are digital natives… we are digital immigrants.  Education is going to need to change to meet their needs and, honestly, education could become significantly better with the appropriate integration of technology.

Of course… then the question arises – how would you assess 21st century skills?  Isn’t it easy to fake those skills?  Don’t get me wrong, content is still foundational – how would a student analyze the Revolutionary War – if the student didn’t know the events, the causes, or the participants?  Nonetheless, I don’t think we can deny that these 21st century skills are important to future workplaces and to the success of our students.

The web is an open book that not only links knowledge and information, but is now linking people and creating global communities.  What may have once been impossible (for instance: being able to talk to professionals in all sorts of different workplaces about their jobs and daily work) now is accessible at a touch of a button.

I’m not denying the importance of the 3 r’s: reading, riting, and rithmetic (yeah yeah… they aren’t actually 3 r’s), I’m just suggesting that the 4 c’s, media literacy, and global awareness are crucial to enhancing our education.  Of course, the best possible scenario (maybe?) would be for every student to have a laptop accessible to them so that technology could be incorporated into every part of school life… but with a budget like we have now… is that realistic in the slightest bit?  Schools are going to have be creative with technology – especially now.

So what’s the answer?  Should education team with business to allow for cash flow?  Are grants enough?  21st century skills is a subject that is still young – I feel like I’m still just skimming the surface…


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