As a district we have placed an overwhelming amount of time into professional learning communities. We are proud of our work in this area, but where do we fit 21st Century Skills into the equation? The Common Core Standards will certainly help with this process, but they alone will not provide the skills that our students will need.
Ken Kay, a leader in 21st Century Education offers some perspectives on 21st Century Life.
#1 The Workforce:
As I read this perspective I thought to myself, how much should schools listen to businesses? Ultimately we do prepare our students for future jobs, but how much should business dictate what we instill into kids? We know jobs are changing drastically and schools should be in-tune with the workforce and business.
"Fifty years ago, our K-12 system focused on the routine. Memorization and "following instructions" were the order of the day, and they fit nicely into jobs that were routine manufacturing jobs in hierarchical organizations." (Ken Kay, 2013)21st Century jobs will most certainly continue to require non-routine tasks. The ability to critically think, problem solve, create, communicate, and collaborate will be very important.
#2 The Flat World
Kay references Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat. Technology and information has essentially flattened our world. According to Kay the flat world requires individuals who are self directed.
"A corporate executive at Apple told us in today's environment, if a person needs to be managed they are no longer employable." -Ken KayHow are we intentionally preparing students to be more self directed? How long on average do your students sit passively and listen to the content taught to them? Are there opportunities for them to guide their own learning or is it solely teacher directed?
#3 The Service Economy
According to Kay 80% of jobs are now considered service orientated. Service jobs include: doctors, lawyers, educators, health care providers, accountants, bankers, and etc. How do we embed some of the soft skills that may now be over looked due to other curricular requirements or needs?
Kay explains that the demands of citizenship are much more today than at any point in our history. The challenges we face today require more complex thinking, more empathy, more civility, and more interactivity. How intentional are we in addressing the complex social issues and concerns within our community, nation, and world?
#5 Pace of Change
How are we preparing students for a life time of change? The average number of different jobs an average person has in their life is 10.4. As mentioned by Kay, our grandparents prepared themselves for a single career. Change was not part of their work life.
"The only thing that is constant is change." -Heraclitus#6 Design and Innovation
I like the comparison Kay provides between traditional and innovative educational environments.
The rate of information change has increased dramatically. Teachers are no longer the holders of all knowledge. Knowledge can be accessed easily which makes content less important. How do we transform our classrooms and schools from content mastery to content and skill mastery?
We have to be careful with technology. We think the device it self will be the silver bullet to boost achievement and increase student engagement. Technology can certainly leverage our ability to instill 21st Century Skills, but a paper and a pencil can be equally effective.
"Technology is not, nor should it ever be, the sole focus or the end goal."
What role do 21st Century Skills play in schools? What will our students need to know and be able to do in the year 2025?
You might check out the trailer to Most Likely to Succeed, a promising documentary on the current factory model that exists in most schools.