Monday, March 26, 2012

21st Century Skills: Are we doing enough?

Our school's book club recently chose to read 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times written by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel.  There has been so much talk about 21st century skills for years now, and many argue what those specific skills are exactly.  Trilling & Fadel discuss four powerful forces that are converging on our world and they create the need new forms of learning.  Below are the four converging forces on our educational system according to Trilling &Fadel.

1. Knowledge Work
2. Thinking Tools
3. Digital Lifestyles
4. Learning Research 

Knowledge Work

The world of work is changing in the Knowledge Age (21st Century).  There is big time pressure on us in education to make a shift to develop these skills.  Content isn't the problem, I think it is the process we use to deliver our lessons.  
"Today's knowledge work is done collaboratively in teams with team members often spread across multiple locations, using a digital zoo of devices and services to coordinate their project work." 
Are we doing enough in our schools to prepare our students for Knowledge Work?  Are we creating environments that teach our students these skills?  How does your school stack up?

Thinking Tools
"Technology and the digital devices and services that fill a knowledge worker's toolkit - the thinking tools of our time - may be the most potent forces for change in the 21st century."
Eric Sheninger talks often about creating initiatives like Bring Your Own Technologies into schools.  He tweets and blogs regularly about 21st Century skills.  You can read more here: It is time for schools to seriously consider BYOT This may be the easiest way to put more devices or thinking tools into our students hands.
"In the past, memorizing the tidy set of known facts, rules, figures, and dates of any school subject was challenging but necessary part of learning.  Today, attempting to memorize the overflowing storerooms of facts and knowledge in any field is clearly impossible."
With the amount of information that is available, is it necessary to teach facts anymore?  

Digital Lifestyles

We live in a digital age. If you are under the age of thirty-one you grew up surrounded by digital media.  Our students don't know anything else, this is their lifestyle.  They know that they are different than "digital immigrants" these are people who learned to "do technology" later in life.  The following are the  expectations of this group according to a recent student. 
  • Freedom to choose and express their personal views and individual identities 
  • Customization and personalization 
  • Scrutiny - detailed, behind the scenes analysis 
  • Integrity and openness in their interactions with others from organizations 
  • Entertainment and play to be intergrated into their work, learning and social life
  • Collaboration and relationships to be a vital part of what they do 
  • Speed in comminications, getting information, and getting responses to questions and messages
  • Innovation in products, services, employers, and schools, and in their own lives
"A one-size-fits-all factory model and one-way broadcast approach to learning does not work well for these students."
How are we personalizing learning for these students?

Learning Research

Trilling & Fadel found five key findings that may help to guide and reshape learning to meet our times.  

  1. Create more authentic learning experiences.  Students need more real-world problem solving, internships in real work settings.  
  2. Allow mental model building, students should be put into situations that incorporate new experiences that change their views over time.  
  3. Create lessons that have an emotional connection to what is being learned.  I can remember this whenever we covered the Holocaust.  Students were so into the lesson, because of the emotional connection involved.  
  4. Create more personalized learning opportunities for students.  Differentiate!
  5. Embed social learning into lessons.  Online communication is an option.  

How are you currently embedding 21st century skills into your school or classroom?  What are the most important skills that we need embed into our curriculum?

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