I was challenged to express my opinions on what 21st Century Skills should look like in a school/classroom. My blog on the subject appears below:
There are three commonly accepted categories of 21st century skills:
1. Information Media/Technology skills
2. Learning and Innovation Skills, and
3. Life and Career skills
They have been widely adopted across a number of states and are being implemented pedagogically with success. The following blog will briefly review examples and my opinions of how these skills should be integrated into curricula.
I will begin with the category for which I am most familiar, Information Media and Technology skills. This category includes a curriculum with an emphasis on a building a student’s understanding of information, technology and media literacy.
As we embark upon the 21st century, school systems remain slow to change to adjust their curricula in order to address the technological demands of society. To build students appreciation and capacity to engage in computing, schools will need to be more open to emerging trends in technology and introduce these aspects more readily in the classroom. Therefore it remains critical to train teachers in the first year of their career in an effort to reduce their apprehension and try out new technologies early; in the hopes that they will be more open minded when the opportunity arises.
Research suggests that because today’s youth are more engaged in social networking and the consumption of rich media over the Internet, educators need to place a new emphasis on teaching methodologies that incorporate digital media production as a tool for classroom inquiry.
However, whereas the use and consumption of technology is critical to its understanding it remains just the beginning for both students and teachers. In both the education and computing fields there is still a critical need for students to embrace an appreciation of how to construct and design new media at an early age. Schools that place an emphasis on media education should go a step further and provide students with the experience to compose their own software applications using design and composition software that is readily available. This leads me to the second skill category Learning and Innovation Skills.
This category includes a curriculum that strengthens a student’s ability to think critically, solve problems, collaborate, be creative and innovative and then be able to communicate effectively.
There are a great number of examples where teachers are developing students’ ability to think critically. I will speak mainly on examples that can be found in lessons on technology and media. In today’s classrooms students are being exposed to digital media in ways that in just 10 years ago would be hard to imagine. Students are developing gaming software, texting, twittering, editing HD video, and creating simulations. As advanced as these concepts may be, it is important that we as educators do not teach them in isolation. We must be careful to engage the student in ways that foster critical thinking through new challenges. This may include infusing a multiple number of subjects into the creation of one video game or the use of software creation to encourage the memorization of complex mathematical concepts. Research suggest that students remember algorithms faster and get more excited about course work when an experimental approach to computer science is incorporated into instruction within a lab type environment. These types of innovative approaches to instruction are just a few examples of ways to tweak a students learning and innovation skills.
The final category, Life and Career skills, develops a student’s intrinsic ability to be flexible, adaptable, and self-directed. These skills also include a student’s sense of responsibility, social awareness and accountability. Educators must provide opportunities that foster students’ future goals by involving them in programs during the school day that have real-life applicability and relevance to classroom lessons.
In these programs, the school could provide a mentor from the students chosen career path and give the student access to professional conferences. This would be done in order to show to the student the direct relevance their classroom activities have to their desired profession. It would also develop self-direction in the student by creating an understanding of the importance in choosing a given career and make certain associations back in their own communities. Such programs develop a responsible student who is accountable for their own learning.
I welcome your comments and opinions on this topic.