You're encouraged to join and participate in what I hope will be an on-going conversation. Your participation will make this effort a much more worthwhile endeavor. Be sure to click on the "Comments" tab below to read what others have written in response. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hot Button Topic - 21st Century Skills

What's getting much of the attention these days is the focus upon 21st century skill sets that students must arguably acquire in order to have a reasonable chance of being productive citizens in the new global economy.  It's, no doubt, a hot-button topic.  A simple "Google Search" of the words - 21st century skills - returned 8,500,000 hits in 0.15 seconds.  Okay.  So what's causing the heat?

Well, it's about lots of things, and it all doesn't match up in coordinated fashion.  The one constant in the conversation about 21st century skills, though, is the relative importance of the web and its place in formal (academic) learning.  More and more types of people of all sorts of ages are spending more and more time connecting to the web. On-line courses, on-line banking, on-line shopping, social networking, and open source content -they're everywhere, and can be easily accessed from anywhere, too .  Clearly, the temperature is rising on this hot-button issue as it relates to its place in teaching and learning.

Will Richardson, a 20-year veteran of classroom teaching and author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010), made this observation in his Preface - "...we live in a world where the following condition still exists: a growing majority of students are immersed in social networks and technologies outside of school, and most have no adults in their lives who are teaching them how to use those connections to learn.  Our collective inability to recognize a 'tectonic shift' in the way we learn stems, I believe, from one fundamental fact - not enough of us have experienced that shift ourselves.  These shifts will not come under the guise of 'twenty-first century skills' reforms which are actually nineteenth-century skills being remarketed for a new day.  They will only come when enough educators fully understand the open connections, open conversations, open content, and open learning that come as a part of a community of learners who are invested in their own passions."

For some of you, the aforementioned may be a radical view.  For others, it may be right on.  Is it time for a major paradigm shift in education?  Or does it simply mean some minor tinkering with the present model?  Maybe you feel that nothing at all needs to be done. It "ain't broke, so don't fix it."  Maybe technology is driving way beyond the speed limit and educators need to apply the brakes. 

Whatever you may be feeling about this, it's likely you're feeling something.  Will the rising heat bring about a climate change in public schools?  I encourage you to watch the video below (far left, literally, although it may be considered far left in other ways as well) that addresses this issue.  The presentation is very visual.  Take a few minutes - about 11, to be more precise -to view it.  And then take a few more minutes to share your thoughts.  Put them out there and give others a chance to read them. You may encourage others to respond.  And this could perhaps be a place where a community of learners is formed.


  1. I feel that technology is taboo in many circumstances. This "taboo" mentality creates a reverse psychology feedback loop where students trespass on forbidden territory because it isn't allowed. The students trespass because it isn't allowed, and if it was allowed, fewer students would trespass. If more technology that students use in their free-time is used during school hours, more kids would find education fun and engaging, and thus more students would find enthusiasm to continue their learning into an important position in the changing world.

  2. It's mind boggling when one considers the statistical difference in numbers of students being medicated for ADHD in the Eastern US versus the Western states. Doesn't this seem like a problem to people (students and parents)? One look at the map could lead one to think that this is a contrived disorder. I'm not denying that some people struggle with focus but, I am asserting that pharmaceuticals have a major influence on the economy and education.

    It's time to think bigger picture. Technology consumes our society whether we like it or not. Thinking mathematically, things grow exponentially. Take technology as an example. Every day, there is an exponentially increasing number of possibilities with technology as new programs and hardware are invented. Why don't we approach education in the same manner? The demands of the business world are changing to encourage divergent thinking because it helps cultivate inventions and production. It would only make sense that education be approached in the same manner by embracing technology. Remember, people write the programs. You won't be replaced if you learn new skills...

  3. So, the two comments posted offer support for a paradigm shift and more inclusion of web-based tools in teaching and learning. Is anyone feeling differently about this?

  4. I love the map...and the Californians call us East Coasters "up tight!" Imagine.

    I think the issue of technology is often misunderstood. People think of this as optional somehow, that we can just opt out of it all. Truthfully, you can't -- at least not and still play a part of where society is going. Cellphones for kids at school should be allowed, between periods, to text with parents at least. I texted with my daughter today to change a dentist's appointment -- perfectly value for between classes. We should be using Facebook and other social networking tools to communicate with kids because that's where they are at. And so on. The problem I see is that we leave too much up to people to do on their own, and so we get little inefficiencies all over the place that add up. We need a more concerted application approach to empowering people and opening up the school to progress. We're still moving too slow on much of this, IMHO.

  5. As is the case with th traditional 9-5 work day, the traditional school day model is evaporating. With access to work from home or virtually anywhere else for that matter, the opportunity for students to learn "off hours" is there and we should encourage the use of it.

    I don't see the implementation of on-line learning as an 'either-or' situation and I am not suggesting replacing programs or exisiting requirements. I do agree with other posts, however, that there is value to introducing on-line learning experiences to students and it is something we should embrace as an opportunity and not view as a threat.