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FAQs

  • 21st Century Skills are the set of skills students need to succeed in learning, work and life in this century.
  • To ensure success, students need both deep understanding of the major principles and facts in core subjects (such as math, language, arts, science, history, etc.) and also be able to apply this knowledge to important contemporary themes (such as global awareness, financial, health and environmental literacy, etc.) using a variety of skills, such as:
    • Learning and Innovation Skills (critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation)
    • Digital Literacy Skills (information, media and technology literacy); and
    • Life and Career Skills (initiative and self-direction, leadership, adaptability, etc).
    • Time and Financial Literacy Skills (Time Management, Money Management, Investing Skills etc.)
    • Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence (Self and Social Awareness, People and Communication Skills)
  • These skills are vital for everyone’s success in our times, and global competition, increased access to technology, digital information and tools are only increasing the importance of these 21st century knowledge-and-skills. Today, every student requires 21st century skills to succeed. Employers the world over say that recently hired workers, including postsecondary graduates, are ill-prepared in a number of basic knowledge areas and in many of the key skills for successful work in the 21st century.
  • A number of leading education thinkers, such as Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, Howard Gardner (Harvard), Richard Murnane (Harvard) and Edgar Morin (UNESCO), agree that these skills are now critical for any country’s economic success and advocate the learning of these skills as part of everyone’s education.
  • The skills are not new (with the exception of some of the Digital Literacy skills), but for centuries have been offered to only the privileged and gifted students. Yet all students need these skills to succeed.
  • Other cultures besides the Greeks understood the importance of skills as well. Confucius recognized the need for learning by doing, quoted as: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”. Michel de Montaigne said “Rather a mind well-shaped than well-full”.
  • According to Christopher Dede, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, students are better engaged and learn more deeply when they are taught in the context and environment where that learning normally occurs, such as solving a real-world problem.
  • According to Elena Silva, senior policy analyst at Education Sector, “the best learning happens when students learn core subjects and processes, such as the rules and procedures of arithmetic, at the same time that they learn how to think and solve problems.”
  • According to John Bransford of the University of Washington Professor of Education and Psychology, and author of How People Learn, the following characteristics are part of how we naturally learn:
    • Context – Real-world learning
    • Caring – Intrinsic motivation
    • Construction – Mental & virtual model-building
    • Competence – Multiple pathways to expertise
    • Community – Learning socially in groups & teams
  • Not in the least! We unequivocally state that you cannot develop skills apart from the learning of the underlying knowledge you are applying that skill to (critical thinking about nothing is not possible!). It is important now that learning becomes focused both on what students need to know, and what students are able to do with what they know.
  • The knowledge vs. skill issue is just one of a number of misleading education debates that unfortunately narrows the definition of all that goes into developing whole children – each child’s unique and wonderful mix of knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviours, values and so much more.
  • We advocate for learning 21st century skills alongside core subjects, streams and themes. We continue to encouragecolleges and universities in helping ensure that 21st century skills are embedded in their standards.
  • In the years spent developing the framework, educators, civic and community leaders, government officials and business people were all deeply involved. We asked what students needed to succeed at all levels. They universally replied that a combination of deep knowledge and what has come to be known as “21st century skills” represents the necessary outcomes students now need for success.
  • Critical thinking, problem solving, communications skills, innovation skills, technology skills and career and life skills will be needed far into the next century, yet many countries have not yet focused their resources on the best ways to teach and assess these skills.
  • The countries that fully understand the link between students learning these skills and the future health and welfare of their economies will be the ones who invest and develop the best ways to do this. That is why the 21st century skills movement won’t be short-lived. It is an economic and social imperative we all share now.
  • According to Elena Silva, senior policy analyst at Education Sector, “the best learning happens when students learn core subjects and processes, such as the rules and procedures of arithmetic, at the same time that they learn how to think and solve problems.”
  • We now know that motivation and engagement are crucial to learning success. By integrating the learning of core knowledge, key 21st Century skills, the effective use of technology and applying this learning to relevant, real world problems and questions, in every classroom, we will help build a society of knowledgeable, responsible citizens, workers and leaders equipped to handle the challenges of our times and to continue learning lifelong.
  • Many colleges agree with us that it is imperative to infuse 21st century skills into classrooms. These colleges, are in the process of creating 21st Century Skills Maps, which provide teacher-created learning activities and models that show how this learning can be done.
  • The learning of core subjects is amplified and strengthened by the integration of 21st century skills as these skills:
    • Help bring theory, facts, questions and problems, and real world applications together in a powerful learning experiences
    • Have a transformative potential to go beyond the walls of a classroom to connect students with global peers through the development of digital literacies
    • Promote deeper understanding, more useful knowledge, and pro-social, responsible approaches to everyday life when students study core subjects as they learn how to think critically and creatively, research answers to questions, solve problems, and innovate.
  • Students have always wanted to go beyond their learning, with relevant materials and content that relate to their lives and the issues of the times. That pressure is higher now than ever before, as “digital native” students, immersed in today’s technologies, have access to more information and thinking tools than ever before.

But parents and educators now have a greater responsibility to guide the students toward the effective use of these powerful tools for improved learning that meets the needs of our times.

Of course, and absolutely yes. Why should any child be short-changed in their opportunities for a successful life?

  • Change almost never happens at once, especially in education! We recommend a “depth vs breadth” approach to learning standards, focused on what are the essential themes and big ideas in each subject area, and how 21st century skills can be integrated with this more focused set of learning goals. Our work recommends a thoughtful, detailed implementation period, as it takes time to coordinate and effectively impact standards, assessments, curriculum, instruction, professional development, and learning environments.
  • It is also important to move decisively. The future is not waiting; we need to be integrating 21st skills into the learning program, in every classroom, for every student today.
  • The outcome of the “depth vs breadth – Mentees to be Mentors, and Mentors to be Mentees” decisions will help free up time for the application of skills and for deeper understanding, and as teachers apply effective inquiry, design and project learning methods, they will achieve a better balance of direct instruction and project-oriented methods.
  • By incorporating more rich, interdisciplinary learning projects, achievement in many more learning standards across many subject areas is possible – a more efficient and effective method than by teaching each standard independently in each of the subject area courses.
  • You can learn just by being a mentee of 21skillz and observing and followingour best 21st Century mentors in action.
  • Colleges are increasing their focus on skills, inquiry, design and collaborative project learning, and we have many mentors inside or even outside of your college to offer a breadth of programs in developing these 21st century learning.
  • STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) are typically seen as content areas of knowledge that include technical skills, but do not usually integrate the development of many of the 21st century skills now needed.
  • They do matter greatly in a technological society, and even non-technologists need a higher level of math, science and technical literacy to be knowledgeable citizen participants in democratic decision-making.
  • Technology and Engineering in particular have not been taught until college or in vocational school, and we advocate their inclusion in students’ learning programs as some leading countries and states already do.
  • This means better assessments that incorporate a wider range of knowledge and skills, and that use a wider variety of measures – especially assessments that happen as the learning occurs (formative assessments) so that students and teachers have immediate feedback and can course-correct as they go.
  • Of course, we also recommend better “high-stakes” (summative) assessments that are authentic, problem-based, and assess multiple dimensions of the learner via portfolios and other methods. We are not the least bit proposing the elimination of summative assessments, we only ask for their improvement.
  • Yes, there are good measures of all the 21st century skills if you consider a much wider range of assessment tools and methods, including the embedding of these assessments as part of the curriculum, so that assessments become a valuable part of the learning process and less of an added activity that takes away time from learning.
  • Technology can help make assessments and evaluations much more a part of the learning process, just as more learning is being supported by technology.
  • There is a great deal of solid science and modern psychology behind the move toward multiple measures of learning and a broader portfolio of methods to measure the full complement of knowledge, thinking processes, skills, understandings, mental models, attitudes, values, and much more that makes up what we now call “learning”.
  • Industry has been a catalyst for change, and is responsible for hiring the graduates of our education systems. They are demanding a new level of skills and expertise reflected in their agreement on the 21st century skills framework. Industry also contributes a great deal of resources to education as it is in their interest to have a well-prepared workforce.
  • Industry does also offer education help through philanthropy and corporate social responsibility programs, with both funding and in-kind expertise from its employees.

There are two parts to this answer, one regarding learning about technology, and the other, learning with technology:

  • For learning about technology: technology, especially digital information and media technologies (IMT) has become an intrinsic, inescapable part of the modern world. Digital literacy is no longer a nice-to-have – it is becoming basic to life in our times.
  • Regarding learning with technology: technology is not a panacea. We advocate the careful choice and implementation of proven uses of technologies for learning, blended with a creative dash of experimenting and innovating. What’s most important is the learning outcome of the use of technology – are students more prepared for learning, work and life in the 21st century?
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