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21 Century skills

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21 Century skills
21st
CENTURY
SKILLS: for
Prepare Students

by Lotta C. Larson and Teresa Northern Miller

Skills students will need for the society in which they will work and live shouldn’t be thought of as “one more thing to teach,” but rather training integrated across all curricula.

THE FUTURE

The first decade of the twenty-first century has come to an end, so it seems timely to take a closer look at what often are referred to as 21st century skills, because these skills directly impact teaching and learning. Classroom teachers need to be familiar with these skills and integrate them throughout the curriculum. What Are 21st Century Skills?
Since the inception of public education, there has been a strong emphasis on teaching the “basics,” including reading, writing, and mathematics. While such skills are still important, lately much talk focuses on teaching children 21st century skills. In a press release, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne
Duncan (2009) referred to 21st century skills as “skills that increasingly demand creativity, perseverance, and problem solving combined with performing well as part of a team.”
Lotta C. Larson is an Assistant Professor at Kansas State
University, where she teaches literacy courses and supports teachers as they integrate technology and 21st century skills into their classrooms. She serves as Counselor of the Iota Xi
Chapter of KDP.
Teresa Northern Miller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Kansas State University.
She teaches aspiring teachers and building leaders in two-year cohort partnerships with public schools. Her research interests are leadership and new literacies..

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a leading advocacy organization that promotes infusion of 21st century skills into education, developed a framework for 21st century learning. That framework describes the skills, knowledge, and expertise students need to successfully enter today’s workforce. Student outcomes include: 1) Core Subjects and
21st Century Themes; 2) Learning and Innovation Skills;
3) Information, Media, and Technology Skills; 4) and Life and Career Skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills 2009).
Similarly, the International Society for Technology in Education
([ISTE] 2007) recognized that in an increasingly digital world, students need skills in the following areas: 1) Creativity and
Innovation; 2) Communication and Collaboration; 3) Research and Information Fluency; 4) Critical Thinking, Problem
Solving, and Decision Making; 5) Digital Citizenship; and 6)
Technology Operations and Concepts.
Though there are multiple ways to view the exact content and definition of 21st century skills, all generally emphasize what students can do with knowledge and how they apply what they learn in authentic contexts. Their essence involves strong communication and collaboration skills, expertise in technology, innovative and creative thinking skills, and an ability to solve problems.

Are 21st Century Skills Really New?
According to Silva (2009, 631), 21st century skills are not new, but they are “newly important,” as today’s workers must be able to “find and analyze information from multiple sources
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and use this information to make decisions and create new ideas.” Historically, this need for learning and innovation skills can be traced back to Socrates and the Sophists, who were
“the first professional teachers” (Johnson and Reed 2008,
23). Socratic circles continue to be used in classrooms today to engage students in the art of inquiry and dialogue and, more importantly, to take responsibility for their own learning
(Copeland 2005).
Skills for the future also were recommended long ago by John Dewey, who proposed an education “grounded in experience,” in which students interact with the “everchanging world” (Johnson and Reed 2008, 13). Through the
Internet, today’s students have opportunities to engage in authentic tasks reaching far beyond their classroom walls. A true visionary, Dewey defined an educated person as “one who thinks and reflects before acting, responds intelligently to a problematic situation and finally assesses the consequences of a chosen plan of action” (Johnson and Reed 2008, 14).
Clearly, this definition also describes a 21st century learner.
In 1956, Benjamin Bloom defined a taxonomy of thinking that can be used to effectively create lesson plans in any discipline. The complexities of thought identified by Bloom, and later updated by his colleagues (Anderson and Krathwohl
2001), remain on the forefront as teachers create lesson plans with a focus on 21st century skills. Today’s teachers must build on the vision of these early educators by fostering students’ communication and collaboration skills, integrating technology and problem-solving skills, and encouraging innovative and creative thinking. To learn more about 21st century skills, please explore the resources in Table 1.

21st Century Skills in the Classroom
So, what does all this mean for educators and students in
K–12 classrooms? What it doesn’t mean is that teachers are getting saddled with “one more thing to teach.” Rather, it means that 21st century skills need to be taught and integrated across the current curriculum by providing students with engaging learning opportunities in authentic contexts. Here are some ways that 21st century skills can be incorporated into the curriculum.

Communication and Collaboration
In the 21st century classroom, students should collaborate and communicate in both online and offline environments. Offline communication skills are fostered as students collaboratively solve problems, engage in inquirybased activities (such as science experiments), or research a particular topic. As online communication skills become increasingly important, students benefit from participation in online book clubs, science forums, or other forms of virtual discussions. Communication tools like Twitter, e-mail, and text

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messaging may further engage students in conversations with authors, scientists, political leaders, or fellow students from around the world. Many Internet resources provide e-mail accounts or blog solutions for schools and districts
(see Table 1).

Table 1. 21st Century Skills Resources
For help integrating 21st century skills into your curriculum, visit these Web sites:
• Edutopia offers practical advice, authentic examples, lively contributions from practitioners, and invaluable tips and tools, including ideas for Technology Integration and
Project Learning. www.edutopia.org
• ePals makes it easy to connect learners locally, nationally, or internationally with classrooms in 200 countries and territories. www.epals.com
• ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards
(NETS) for Students help students prepare to work, live, and contribute to the social and civic fabric of their communities. www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students. aspx • ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers provide a framework for educators as they transition schools from Industrial Age to Digital
Age places of learning. www.iste.org/standards/nets-forteachers.aspx
• Partnership for 21st Century Skills advocates for the integration of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and communication into the teaching of core academic subjects. www.21stcenturyskills.org
• Pew Internet & American Life Project explores the impact of the Internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life. www.pewinternet.org
• Tech & Learning provides K–12 educators with practical resources and expert strategies for transforming education through integration of digital technologies. www.techlearning.com • Thinkfinity offers free lesson plans that reflect 21st century teaching and skills, and make use of digital sources. www.thinkfinity.org/lesson-plans

Expertise in Technology
As technology becomes even more prevalent in today’s society, students need increased expertise in digital technologies (computers, electronic white boards, GPS, etc.). Of even greater importance is the need for students’ ability to use technology to research, organize, evaluate, and communicate information. Twenty-first century teachers must carefully guide their students within technology-rich

classrooms that present more complex and diverse learning opportunities than traditional classrooms.
Leu et al. (2004) proposed that as accessibility to the
Internet and new classroom technologies increase, teachers become even more important, though their roles change.
In reality, it is no longer possible for every teacher to be an expert in every new technology, and students often possess more expertise than their teachers. In the 21st century classroom, effective teachers and students orchestrate learning environments in which individual expertise in technology is shared with a broader community of learners. School administrators can support such configurations by providing professional development, skills-specific training, and time to plan and design technology-based lessons (Larson, Miller, and
Ribble 2009/2010).

create nontraditional solutions, and to ask questions that help determine better outcomes, as recommended by the
Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2009). For additional resources and lesson plans that support integration of 21st century skills into specific content areas, please see Table 2.

Closing Thoughts
The world is changing rapidly, and educators must respond by preparing their students for the society in which they will work and live. Teaching 21st century skills is imperative and cannot be ignored or taken lightly. With the increased pressure of No Child Left Behind (2002) and an emphasis on common core standards, it is particularly important that teachers do not view 21st century skills as an additional
“subject,” but rather as skills to be integrated across all

Table 2. Resources for Integrating 21st Century Skills into Content Areas
Reading/Writing
Science
• Read Write Think provides access to practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction through free,
Internet-based content. www.readwritethink.org
• Project Gutenberg offers more than 30,000 free e-books to download and read on your PC, iPhone, Kindle, Sony
Reader, iPad, or other portable device. www.gutenberg.org

Mathematics

• National Library of Virtual Manipulatives offers online manipulatives that can be used in whole-class instruction or by individuals at their own computers. http://nlvm.

usu.edu/en/nav/topic_t_1.html

• PBS: Teachers Math lets you select grade-level appropriate lesson plans that promote a multimedia approach to teaching. www.pbs.org/teachers/math

Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving
Despite increasing knowledge of how the brain works and the continued emphasis on developing skills in innovative thinking and problem solving, many students function at
Bloom’s (1956) knowledge and comprehension levels. It is vital that teachers encourage students to apply knowledge, analyze that knowledge (in multiple ways), synthesize or create new knowledge, and continuously evaluate. All of these skills can be integrated with technology and practiced collaboratively.
The abilities to solve problems and think innovatively across all content areas involve multiple levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. As students encounter real-life problems, they must be able to 1) sort through large masses of materials and identify key problems; 2) create viable options or solutions; and 3) identify and use appropriate criteria for evaluation. By developing these skills in the classroom, students will be able to transfer the thinking processes to unfamiliar situations, to

• Education Planet–Science provides more than 45,000 lesson plans in all areas of science and more than 1,000
Web links for additional science exploration. www. educationplanet.com/directory/science • Scientific American: Ask the Experts invites students to ask questions on any science topic. www.scientificamerican. com/section.cfm?id=ask-the-experts Social Studies

• Google Earth lets you travel anywhere on earth to explore rich geographical content. http://earth. google.com • The History Channel includes a wealth of lesson plans, biographies, speeches, video clips, and information about any day in history. www.history.com curricula. The future is already here, and it is up to all teachers to reshape instruction.

References

Anderson, L. W., and D. Krathwohl, eds. 2001. A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing. New York: Longman.
Bloom, B. S., ed. 1956. Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. New York: Longmans, Green.
Copeland, M. 2005. Socratic circles: Fostering critical and creative thinking in middle and high school. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Duncan, A. 2009. Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on results of NAEP Arts 2008 assessment. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Available at: www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/06/06152009.html.
International Society for Technology in Education. 2007. National education technology standards for students. Washington, DC: ISTE. Available at: www.iste.org/standards/ nets-for-students.aspx. Johnson, T. W., and R. F. Reed. 2008. Philosophical documents in education, 3rd ed.
Boston: Pearson.
Larson, L., T. Miller, and M. Ribble. 2009/2010. 5 considerations for digital age leaders.
Learning & Leading with Technology 37(4): 12–15.
Leu, D. J. Jr., C. K. Kinzer, J. Coiro, and D. W. Cammack. 2004. Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other information and communication technologies. In Theoretical models and processes of reading, 5th ed., ed. R. B. Ruddell and N. J. Unrau, 1570–613. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
No Child Left Behind Act. 2002. Public Law 107–110. Washington, DC: U.S. Congress.
Available at: www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/107-110.pdf.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 2009. A. framework for 21st century learning. Tucson:
AZ: P21. Available at: www.21stcenturyskills.org.
Silva, E. 2009. Measuring skills for 21st century learning. Phi Delta Kappan 90(9): 630–34.

KAPPA DELTA PI RECORD u SPRING 2011

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References: Anderson, L. W., and D. Krathwohl, eds. 2001. A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing Bloom, B. S., ed. 1956. Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals Copeland, M. 2005. Socratic circles: Fostering critical and creative thinking in middle and high school Duncan, A. 2009. Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on results of NAEP Arts 2008 assessment International Society for Technology in Education. 2007. National education technology standards for students Johnson, T. W., and R. F. Reed. 2008. Philosophical documents in education, 3rd ed. Larson, L., T. Miller, and M. Ribble. 2009/2010. 5 considerations for digital age leaders. Leu, D. J. Jr., C. K. Kinzer, J. Coiro, and D. W. Cammack. 2004. Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other information and communication No Child Left Behind Act. 2002. Public Law 107–110. Washington, DC: U.S. Congress. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 2009. A. framework for 21st century learning. Tucson: AZ: P21 Silva, E. 2009. Measuring skills for 21st century learning. Phi Delta Kappan 90(9): 630–34.

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