Jay Matthews wrote a piece in the Post this morning titled “The Latest Doomed Pedagogical Fad: 21st Century Skills” to which I replied what follows. Would be interested to hear your thoughts, here or there…
I don’t disagree that the majority of “21st Century Skills” are nothing new, and that we should have been teaching them all along. As computer and online technologies evolve, we have more tools that we can use to teach those skills in perhaps more relevant or compelling ways. But that depends on the teacher’s familiarity and comfort level with those technologies, obviously.
What is different here, though, is something that is not being articulated by the Partnership or many others, and that is the learning that can be done (and is being done already) using online social tools and networks. I’d point you to a recent MacArthur Foundation study which concludes that “New media forms have altered how youth socialize and learn” and that this has very important implications for schools and teaching (http://tinyurl.com/55a878, pdf). While most kids’ uses of these technologies are “friendship based”, the more compelling shift is when their use is “interest based” or when they connect with other kids or adults around the topics or ideas they are passionate to learn about. With access to the Internet, and with an understanding of how to create and navigate these online, social learning spaces, opportunities for learning widely and deeply reside in the connections that we make with other people who can teach or mentor us and/or collaboarate with us in the learning process. That, I think, is where we find 21st Century skills that are different and important. Sure, those connections require a well developed reading and writing literacy, and critical thinking and creativity and many of the others are skills inherent to the process. But this new potential to learn easily and deeply in environments that are not bounded by physical space or scheduled time constraints requires us as educators to take a hard look at how we are helping our students realize the potentials of those opportunities.
Having blogged now for seven years and having learned in these interest or passion-based online networks and communities for almost as long, it’s hard to begin to describe how different it is from the classroom teaching that I did for 18 years in a public high school. My learning is self-directed, and everyone in these virtual classrooms wants to be there because they too are interested in pursuing their interests. They come from all over the world, all different cultures, all different experiences, a diversity that is hard to fashion in most school classrooms. We share our learning openly, admit anyone into the conversation, and constantly seek to make each other smarter.
But while that can sound like a pretty positive and powerful space, it is fraught with complexity. We have to learn to read not only texts but to edit them as well, not just for accuracy but for bias, agenda and motive. In the online learning world, we have to be full fledged editors, not just readers, because the traditional editors are gone from the process. And, we have to be creators as well. In order for us to be found by potential teachers and collaborators, we need to have a presence, a footprint. I’m fully convinced that my own kids need to publish, need to establish their reputations early by creating and sharing and engaging in ideas in provocative and appropriate ways. These are not easy skills to master.(I’d refer you to Dan Gillmor’s new essay “Principles for a New Media Literacy” http://tinyurl.com/4b3pos for more on that.)
My kids need the help of teachers in their classrooms who understand all of this on some personal, practical level. They need teachers who can help them navigate these complex spaces and relationships online that require, at the very least, a different application of traditional skills and literacies. I think as educators we have a duty to do so. You can call it a “fad” if you like, but the reality is that these skills are sorely lacking in our teachers who are suffocating in paper, policies and processes that prevent them from exploring the potential of online networked learning spaces. It’s imperative, I think, that we change that. To quote Kansas State professor Michael Wesch, “We [need to] use social media in the classroom not because our students use it, but because we are afraid that social media might be using them – that they are using social media blindly, without recognition of the new challenges and opportunities they might create” (http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=192). To me, that’s what 21st Century Skills are all about, teaching our kids to navigate the world as they are experiencing it, not the world we experienced.
Sean Nash says
I agree completely with this: [that 21st. Century skills are] “…nothing new, and that we should have been teaching them all along.”
The simple reason for the “fad” appearance is the very basic fact that we now have easy access to the tools and information needed to deliver such skills.
As a teacher of eighteen years, and one who started with chalk (the overhead projector seemed like edgy communication technology at the time) I can easily say that the changes I have experienced in the past two years are bigger than anything in even the sum of those years.
I remember the day we got web access… Netscape Navigator hooked to a 32in TV via S-video cable was rocky, but huge. Then about four or five years ago, my world was again flipped by the addition of 30 iBooks into my classroom. Another massive paradigm shift occurred due to the fact that I was lucky enough at that point, for the first time, to have ubiquitous access to student-side technology. Prior to this point in time, “technology” in a classroom almost always referred to teacher-sided, or “presentation” technology. Laptops changed everything. It made a shift toward a more constructivist, student-centered approach all the more reachable.
However, it was only my dive into the read/write aspects of the web in the past couple of years that truly turned those 30 little “windows to the world” into 30 interactive, publishing machines. Of all the shifts in technology I have experiences, this one is the first to truly change pedagogy in my classroom. And it isn’t the pedagogy of “technology” at all. It is the pedagogy of learner-centered education. It has helped to make possible the kind of constructivist learning that happens in primary grades… finally happen again in the 11th and 12th grade.
You can read about such changes, and easily make some sense of them. However, it requires you to be a “believer.” (or not) Actually living on the edge of all of these shifts does something quite different. Experiencing them firsthand everyday as a practitioner changes believing into doing -and a far deeper understanding.
Laura Deisley says
Hmm. I appreciate your response to Jay’s critical piece because it differentiates the 21st century learning babble from what we’ve been experiencing in our own learning, and want our students to experience, which is networked learning. And, it gets him thinking about a much more substantive difference in the way we do ‘school’. However, if he’s already having a hard time with teacher-training and then teachers effectively using technology and making sense of collaborative, creative, project-based learning, then how the heck is he going to make the leap to teachers modeling networked learning? And schools making that big of a shift?
I think Jay’s beef has less to do with 21st century skills (although he’s correct about its fad-like marketing crap)or whether technology is used to leverage the learning experience. I think Jay draws our attention to two fundamental issues which are spot-on: the quality of the teacher in the classroom and the relationships necessary for meaningful learning to occur. If you don’t have that, and many don’t, then the rest is all relative and you can throw all kinds of “great ideas” at it and you’ll never get anywhere. Gladwell wrote an intriguing piece in the 12/15/08 issue of the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_gladwell) about how to find that kind of teacher. It’s got me thinking a great deal about the process of identifying and hiring teachers first, and then how to support them professionally to thrive in an ever-changing landscape.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for dropping by, Laura. In between runs?
I’m wondering why I’m stuck on that “quality of the teacher in the classroom” part. What is quality, these days? Certainly, all of the things that Chris espouses at SLA. But isn’t a part of “quality” being able to understand the world as our kids (who are connected) experience it? (My new favorite phrase…)
Steve Ransom says
Will – absolutely.
Laura Deisley says
Don’t you think there is a type of person who exemplifies quality teaching with one of the hallmarks being able to identify and shift when the game changes? I think Gladwell does a nice job with the NFL draft analogy, and the Curry School examples of good teaching are congruent with this notion of quality being someone who is sensitive to the world as each individual child experiences it.
We’re not going to have a wholesale shift to networked learning in schools immediately (or any time soon for that matter), but I’m enjoying the challenge (well, most days) of trying to help more teachers let go of their fears and begin experiencing learning in a network and giving students opportunities to explore the world in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them.
Little jog at EduCon?
Gary Stager says
What of Gladwell’s analogy did you find to be relevant or accurate?
Laura Deisley says
What Gladwell nails is that we cannot drill-and-kill and predict successful performance over time. What happens when you’re in the game and you’ve got to think for yourself, rely on your own reflexes, your intuition? And the game is always changing and for teachers that means uniquely different students, a different day each day, and everchanging world we live in.
The to-be NFL superstars were not those who drilled and learned to read the spread with accuracy in high school. They weren’t the ones with the highest aptitude based on some test. What was it? They could “feel” the game and they learned to think. It was their vocation so to speak.
Sweet spots can’t be predicted; rather, I think they uncovered when we find our vocation and live it. No one else can construct that for us and we certainly can’t predict it based on some rote test or model.
Betty Gilgoff says
Thank you for this. Not only does what you say make excellent sense but I appreciate the links to the MacArthur Foundation Study and to the Principles for New Media Literacy essay (although that link didn’t work for me though I was able to find the essay easily with the information you’ve supplied). They are excellent resources to support your powerful argument.
One of the biggest changes I’m seeing in my role as an Inservice Faculty Associate helping teachers navigate through “for credit” professional development, is the growing use of the internet to create professional learning networks for teachers. I’m optimistic enough to believe that this is an excellent first step in moving towards the kind of teaching you describe. Perhaps it often doesn’t happen in the classroom because teachers are working so hard to try to catch up, many lack the skills themselves. If school districts are sincerely interested in creating change then they need to support teachers in developing their own online networks and in learning web literacy skills. As teachers gain the skills and see the benefits of online PLNs, the potential for being able to help students “navigate these complex spaces and relationships online.”
Steve Ransom says
Will, I wholeheartedly agree with your rationale here, but you ignore the other issues present in Jay Matthews’ piece that are as important in this conversation. Too often we in edtech promote the potential benefits without considering faustian bargains that we may be making. Too often we tout these new ideas without considering feasibility and equity. Yes, change of this nature often happens one teacher at a time, but I think there is something to be said for pushing for 21st century skills when so many are still struggling with 19th century skills. I fear that initiatives like 21st Century Skills somewhat mask the basic problems we have in education in bringing needed reform to an ailing dysfunctional “system”.
No doubt, we should not and cannot ignore current trends in social media, but at the very foundation, we must look seriously at things like teacher quality and equity. For they have a much bigger impact on student achievement than does social learning and they drive how new tools and learning opportunities will be used, misused, or unused.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment, Steve. I don’t disagree that this conversation may be ahead of the reality of teachers and teaching in our schools. But what do we do? Wait for the system to catch up? And I don’t think this conversation masks the problems as much as it makes them more acute.
I also don’t disagree that teacher quality and equity have a huge effect on student achievement; I would argue, however, that we’re basing student achievement on some pretty outdated benchmarks. And I would also argue that social learning can have a huge impact on achievement as well. That’s why I like the Wesch quote so much, because it speaks to the reality of this situation, that kids by and large are invested in these connections, and that they are by and large blind to the perils and potentials.
Steve Ransom says
As I said, Will, I agree wholeheartedly with those ideas. And no, we can’t wait. We must persist and challenge the status quo. We must do whatever is in our power to teach our students today while preparing them for tomorrow. All I am saying is that the bulk of discussion in this arena often fails to get at the root of problems we are facing in education. The attitude of ignore the masses and leave them in the dust if they refuse to change is problematic. Achievement is based on the masses who represent this ailing system. That’s why it is so outdated. We can forge ahead – and we must. But the masses will continue to drive (or limit) innovation. How do we more effectively invest in them? Issues of teacher quality need to be addressed urgently – perhaps more urgently than that of networks, switches, bandwidth, digital whiteboards, document cameras, clickers, web2.0, and the like.
Yet we continue to invest in what is easy.
I don’t have all the answers, for sure. I would just like to see more emphasis on foundational issues in the edublogosphere when it comes to these topics.
Laura Deisley says
Steve, you and I are in agreement here. If we don’t address the foundational issues of teacher quality, then all theses shifts and new tools are going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back-at any even greater expense to our students and future.
Don Watkins says
I think Matthews is correct in some respects. I think a lot of what is being called 21st Century skills are just re-packaged 20th century skills. I don’t agree that todays’ students need to master 19th century skills before hand though. There are some skills like handwriting that are still being taught when the students need to learn both handwriting and some form of keyboarding. Nowadays, both skills are necessary, but the latter is more likely needed as a child progresses.
I don’t think every classroom needs a whiteboard, projector and wireless slate however. What’s most important and needs to happen sooner rather than later is teaching students how to think not what to think. Too much time is spent getting children to a level of understanding that is at the lower levels of Blooms Taxonomy. Today’s learners need to know how to partner, collaborate, share and a lot of that modeling can be done initially without huge technology outlays. To be sure technology can be a vehicle for sharing, collaborating etc., but in most places the cart is before the horse and has been and will continue to be because it’s more about “monkey see, monkey do.”
Too much of the time I hear people say they can’t teach these skill sets because each students doesn’t have their own computer. While those scenarios are nice many places simply don’t have the resources allocated or even available. I taught students keyboarding without software. It can be done and many of my students are now adults and they have keyboarding skills because I could think outside the box.
I think blogging is a great way to stimulate student reading and writing and it’s fairly easy to set that sort of thing up without much outlay of funds. Teaching children about social networking is important, not for its own sake but for their safety. Posting damaging material on Facebook or elsewhere is injurious to them. Using Facebook, Elgg, Drupal or some other platform to encourage social interaction is great but won’t solve all the problems.
The systemic problem with American education public or private is the idea that we can continue to produce students who cannot read, write, factor and reason. We don’t live in a standardized test, ACT, SAT, multiple choice world. Where else but in education are students penalized for “cheating?” I use the internet everyday to look up information that helps me to solve problems. I use the library at times too. I buy books to read and frequently refer to them. Multiple choice and short answer tests ought to be discouraged wherever practical. Life is about application and performance, not about regurgitating trivial information.
Steve Ransom says
Cheating is frowned upon pretty much everywhere. That is a separate issue from using information ethically. Perhaps the larger issue is requiring tasks of students that they can cheat on rather than more authentic forms of performance-based assessment. But, even the football player has to know the plays inside out that are in the playbook. A foundational level of knowledge is required to be able to perform competently, no?
Don Watkins says
I’m a pilot. You can either fly or you can’t. Tell me how you can cheat on a road test or a flight test. When you structure assessments so that application and performance determine graduation then cheating is no longer an issue. I understand ethics and believe that teaching ethics in schools would be a great idea.
Steve Ransom says
Was there no written component of your pilot’s license that you had to study for? Seems to me there is an multiple choice FAA test at the end of ground school, isn’t there? I don’t think that they let you use Internet resources for it, do they?
I don’t think I want my flight pilot Googling what to do in a certain emergency. Nor do I want my surgeon looking up which artery to cut during heart surgery. That surgeon had a great number of written tests to pass toward obtaining a license, even if it is a performance-based profession.
There is a certain level of core knowledge that is still required. That’s all I am saying.
Don Watkins says
There is an FAA written, but somewhat like the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) examination it is very tough and though there are some multiple choice answers much of the test is short answer, fill in the blank following a scenario where a specific solution is required. Higher level thinking is required. Pilots also must continue to learn and improve and all of us general aviation pilots are required to pass a biennial flight review and/or complete specific FAA ground schools and flight review combinations. Commercial pilots are held to even more rigorous standards.
Heart surgeons that you allude to pass tests but then they must complete internships and surgical residencies which require massive amounts of hands-on performance tests. I can think of very little in K-12 that approximates either of those scenarios.
Steve Ransom says
I agree. Our students rarely get to this second level of performance and should. There is a great imbalance here. The apprenticeship model of old is still relevant today – but is not all that feasible in our current mechanized educational machine of the masses. Efficiency has prevailed over effectiveness and relevancy.
Don Watkins says
Tim Holt says
I think that much of this would be moot if Ed TECH had a singular leadership. As it is, there are competing organizations saying competing things, and to top it off, there are competing ed tech individual leaders saying more competing things on top of that. It is a Medusa.
We have the Wes Fryer fans, the David Warlick fans, the ISTE fans, the Ian McIntosh fans…no one is wrong, it is just that we are following everyone in 21st century learning and no one is the boss. Too many chiefs. Too many injuns.
I suppose I am part of the problem as well, as I blog and podcast and do the stuff everyone else is doing.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment. I don’t think that singular leadership is necessarily a good idea, though I do think that there might be some good work in trying to get the folks involved in this conversation to do some “collective action” in Shirky’s words. Your blogging and podcasting is not a part of the problem, btw, as long as your “writing” honestly, I think you are contributing.
Karen Szymusiak says
Much has been said in previous comments. However, I found the last sentence of your response to be the most meaningful.
“To me, thatâ€™s what 21st Century Skills are all about, teaching our kids to navigate the world as they are experiencing it, not the world we experienced.”
What I am experiencing now in my own learning is an explosion of new information and a network of colleagues that spans the world.
I can’t say that school prepared me for that (of course, I was in high school in the 60s). What is it that inspires and motivates me to learn to navigate the world? How have the people in my network (those close and personal and those I haven’t actually met) helped me with learning to navigate my current world? I will need to think about these things for awhile.
sylvia martinez says
Unfortunately, we feed this beast by accepting marketing language and touting it as educational innovation. No one can even define “21st century skills”, but it sounds cool. Is it skills or pedagogy? Is it about teaching or learning? Does it even require technology? Nobody bothers to really sort it out because we know in our heads what good learning experiences feel like, we can see that technology tends to enable them in the right conditions, and we hope that a new label conveys all that.
You can “teach” collaboration poorly, you can make worksheets out of 21st century skill checklists, and give standardized tests on them.
If we want to change pedagogy, we should talk about pedagogy, and build on the research and work of hundreds of years of dedicated educators, both practitioners and academics. We lose all credibility by jumping on some marketing bandwagon, and shouldn’t be surprised when people like Jay Matthews call that bluff.
Don Watkins says
Amen! Too much credence is given to marketing. Many people that I run into want iPods when an MP3 player would do. We need to teach how to apply knowledge and how to think out of the box.
Todd Williamson says
Will, I too took on Mathews articles this morning in a blog post, though not nearly as succinctly as what you have post for us here. I think this type of article is direct proof that we as professionals need to determine what our kids should know and be able to do in a technological sense.
As has been said recently in many of the discussions on “literacy” we’re firing in the dark at a moving target if we try to teach tools, be they software or hardware. Mathews assertion that the companies behind the Partnership have a vested interest in students being tech-savvy is a statement of the obvious. These are the companies that are making money on the system as it stands right now. As Steve pointed out, schools are often looking for the technology “magic bullet.” And there is no such thing. We do need to address issues of teacher quality, but there is only so far that can take us unless we’re looking to entirely revamp the workforce. With the limited number of teachers in many areas already, that just isn’t going to happen.
I appreciate the discussions that have been happening around your blog, the Elluminate session last week, and the ensuing Twitter/blog posts. I’ve done far more thinking in the past 2 months about technology and education in general than I ever expected to do. Thank you and the rest of this network for that!
Gary Stager says
As the recently departed Deep Throat taught us, “Follow the money!”
I don’t think there is a single author of The P21 stuff who I would hire to teach kids. I’m not sure many others should be working with teachers either.
By definition, the committee work of dozens of companies, no matter how well-inentioned is watered-down, self-evident, self-serving, conservative and unimaginative
Tyler Reed says
This is great stuff, Will. I really like what you said about how your learning has changed in the seven years you’ve been blogging. I feel completely the same way. The way I read and learn has changed dramatically in recent years as well — going from a system where the information I digest was largely chosen for me, to a system that is much more engaging and motivating where I can easily find and sort what interests me and grow my knowledge from there. It’s a system that puts me in control.
It’s the technology and new media that has largely enabled this, and we need to show kids how to use 21st Century technologies to get the most out of their learning too. As you said, the world was different when you and I were in school. We need to teach with the advantages we have today, not with yesterday’s.
Dave Wells says
Jay Matthews calls this a doomed movement that is part of the “all-at-once syndrome.” I see Matthews as catering to the fearful masses and feeding the misconception that schools are about to throw out all of what we know is essential for students in favor of having them blog and surf the web. First of all, let’s take technology out of the equation. When I explain 21st Century Instruction to my teachers, I point out that the core subjects, like reading and mathematics, are still at the foundation of a good education. What has changed in our current century, is that the flat world, the world of the Internet, has fundamentally altered how our society learns, communicates, and does business. It is as fundamental as the invention of the printing press. What was once available to only a few, is now available to the masses. We live in a world where opportunities to be creative and collaborative are boundless. This is the big change that we cannot escape and we should be embracing. Getting back to my teachers for a moment, this means that we take the good teaching that we are already doing and take it a bit further. I point my teachers towards the 21st Century Skills Map from the National Council of Teachers of English. They cite an example of 4th graders discussing literature – sounds like the book report we all grew up with. But take this a bit further, by having the same students discuss literature as a group and you are also teaching the 21st Century Skill of critical thinking. Now I had taken technology out of the picture for a moment to prove you could still teach 21st Century Skills without Microsoft or Apple Computer. If you put technology back in and have the same group of students record their discussion and make it a podcast to share with other classrooms, you have global communication, another 21st Century Skill. I see 21st Century teaching and learning as an essential way to make learning relevant to our students. It is a value added proposition, not an “all-at-once” knee jerk reaction at all.
What part of this statement,
“This is the all-at-once syndrome, a common failing of reform movements. They say changes must be made all at once, or else”
even makes sense??
At the very least, presently one can read Christensen’s “Disrupting Class” which has a graphable timeline for change, based on compilable data. Furthermore, how does anyone get through ANY educational system and not have an inkling about historical timelines?
Gotta agree with Gary Stager.You been punked????
Terry Elliott says
David Warlick approached this topic recently (http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=1662) from a different angle. Instead of writing about skills he called them methods and held them separate from and inferior to “approaches” to using technology. To sum up his position: an attempt to discretely teach tech skills among the digital natives is doomed to irrelevance.
I think that method and approach are related. I find that I have to internalize methods in order for an approach to emerge. The methods I choose are not so much right or wrong, but more what is personally appealing and, I think, what fits my particular stance on the world. They work together. Just as no one would argue that process and product are separable, so too methods and approach are inseparable.
And so too are the social skills in a new social environment. As Warlick says, “If we walk into our classrooms as master learners, then we might come to better understand that working with information is as much about approach as it is about method.”
sylvia martinez says
I think using undefined, overly simplistic words like “approach” and “method” just adds to the noise. Is it because the word “method” seems more structured, and “approach” implies something you do more intuitively?
Terry, you’ve found something you like in the distinction that makes sense to you, and that’s great, but now what? There’s no way to dive any deeper and make real change based on this.
And changing the word “skills” to “methods” doesn’t begin to explain the changes in pedagogy and learning environment I think need to happen.
Technology may be the proverbial horse that leads people to the water of school reform, but you can’t make them drink by giving the water catchy new names.
Terry Elliott says
I gave the website so that you could go see what Warlick says. Mine was a comment not a treatise. Aren’t you guilty of ill-defined terms as well? Pedagogies? Learning environments? Of course, I assume that there are specifics, but that like me you are constrained by the “comment” format.
I am not sure we disagree. As a teacher I feel I am moving through method to get to approach. I am going through a process to get to a product. I am learning a skill in order to make it an unconscious part of my learning and teaching. For example, I am an avid user of Diigo as social bookmarking tool. I am using it in my classes now, but only after I have internalized it in my own personal learning environment (am I allowed to use those words?). I have moved from a discrete skill and have integrated it into my larger approach to research. I am diving deeper into technology every day and making real changes in my classes based upon the skills I acquire and internalize. I am focusing on local, classroom pedagogies every day I teach.
In a way we all rely on words to establish dialogue. Words are all we have and I certainly hope that I can do better, but it is hard when the dialogue starts with the emotional baggage of “simplistic”, “noise”, and “that’s great”.
sylvia martinez says
I’m really sorry if you felt what I said was disparaging you personally. I do believe that there are metaphors that work on a personal level that don’t work when you try to scale them. That’s what I was trying to say, and obviously the words didn’t convey that well.
However, I do think that there are words, such as pedagogy, that are better defined than terms like methods. And if you notice, I was more careful to talk about what I believe is a better learning environment, than simply saying that such a thing exists for all. My term, my head — and I acknowledge that this doesn’t translate for anyone else. Until I explain it, show it, and do it in real life, it’s just words in my head. So that’s what I try and do every day. Sounds like you do too.
All of these so-called 21st Century Skills are well and good BUT all of the comments deal with literacy and how that improves through use and application in the various social networks. As a high school teacher of mathematics I have yet to see anything that remotely deals with numeracy.
In the Algebra for all movement and the view that Algebra is a gatekeeper to college I’d like to see discussions on how to use these various tools to reach ALL students. The top 40% are easy. The challenge is to reach the lower 60% and in particular the lower 40% who are not motivated since they have experienced very little success in mathematics since the 3rd grade when multiplication and division MUST be mastered but are NOT. These students arrive in high school with barely a 5th grade skill level in mathematics and they are sitting in an Algebra 1 class.
Any ideas on how to use these wonderful tools to motivate these student to learn algbera would be greatly apreciated.
“21st Century Skills” is such a nebulous term that it kind of feels like debate for the sake of debating.
The intent seems pretty obvious: parents and the community realize that the Internet is changing things, and they want students to be ready for the new workplace. I guess the crux of the argument is whether schools are trusted to update their curriculum as appropriate, or whether government needs to micromanage.
The funny part of the whole thing is that these 21st century kids are going to have the mythical “21st century skills” by definition, no matter what we do. It would make more sense to either teach old people “21st century skills”, or teach kids how to accommodate and work with (work around?) people who don’t use new online tools when they’re the best tool for the job.
Vincent Baxter says
The argument is so mid-2008 (See problem solved by Nancy Walser in September/October 2008 Education Letter).
Jim Peterson says
I agree that reading, writing and reasoning are huge 21st century skills, even more so than last century. This does not change the fact that these skills are more relevant, fun and engaging when they are applied in a new 21st century setting. We, the people who have learned so much from our self taught 21st century skills, are proof that it is not a fad. Our students, introduced to the power of the their own learning networks, will continue, just like us.
There is nothing wrong with 21st century skills as long as we (teachers) use them to connect to the skills our students will need to be competitive and successful when they graduate. Even though school systems are slow to transform, there are still many ways to introduce bits of the emerging technology. Students are eager to engage in this new direction of instruction. What they need is guidance in ethics (cooperation, teamwork, and respect). Change for the sake of change is not the motive, but rather change with improvement, greater accomplishment, and increased effectivenessâ€”for both teachers and students.
Joe Bires says
Great piece on Jay Mathews’ article. I really don’t think Jay expects his readers to be educators, he writes more for the general public and if we allow his message out there without a rebuttal (like your’s) it really confuses the average member of the public. I deconstructed some of his article on a post I did on my blog.
Great quote at the end of your article;
“teaching our kids to navigate the world as they are experiencing it, not the world we experienced.”