21st Century Skills – What are they?

In recent years, I’ve grown really tired of hearing people use “21st century skills” as buzz words, and mostly in reference to students using computers or the internet. I always just brushed it off as if someone just said something like “think outside of the box.” But about a year ago, I finally just thought, hey are 21st century skills a “thing?” So I asked my trusted friend, Google. There it was! A web site for the partnership for 21st century skills. It is way more than just about computers.

According to the web site the skills are broken down into: Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes, Learning and Innovation Skills, (that include Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Communication and Collaboration) Information, Media and Technology Skills, (includes Information Literacy, Media Literacy, ICT Literacy) and last but not least, Life and Career Skills.

From http://www.p21.org/overview

So when people consider technology be the definition of 21st century skills, that is not completely accurate. Technology skills are not the whole picture, but account for only about a quarter of the skills we should be introducing to our children. We have to not forget about the core skills we have been teaching for forever, the ones that we, our parents and grandparents grew up with.

I think the key point here is that while ICT skills are added to the mix compared to our parents and grandparents, as a separate set of skills, we need to teach the ICT tools in order to learn and acquire all the other skills. For example, it is now possible to teach the core subjects, creativity and innovation, and problem solving skills by using ICT tools. It gets easier to do so everyday.

My students are only 5-6 but they come to me already having a set of technology skills and intuition. I am not sure how, but they do. It is wonderful to be able to take advantage of and build upon their existing knowledge. It’s great to use those technology skills to work on their creativity, ability to collaborate and solve problems. It is important to find the right experiences for them at this young age, too. I would hate to be raising a new batch of social nerds that can use technology but can’t talk to a friend. That is why I try to seek out group projects, collaboration projects with other schools and a healthy mix of actually playing in and out of the classroom (without devices!)

What ideas to you use to teach your children other life skills using technology?

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