Volume 24, Number 5
Teaching 21st Century Skills
What does it look like in practice?
(Catalina Foothills School District)
Call it a quiet revolution. As 2014 approaches—the deadline for all students to be proficient on state tests—academics, educators, business groups, and policymakers are finding common ground in a movement to bring “21st century skills” to the classroom, prompting state agencies and district leaders across the country to rewrite curriculum standards and even to contemplate big changes to existing state testing systems.This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.
What are 21st century skills, who’s pushing them, and what does 21st century teaching look like in practice?
Although definitions vary, most lists of 21st century skills include those needed to make the best use of rapidly changing technologies; the so-called “soft skills” that computers can’t provide, like creativity; and those considered vital to working and living in an increasingly complex, rapidly changing global society.
“Some of these skills have always been important but are now taking on another meaning—like collaboration. Now you have to be able to collaborate across the globe with someone you might never meet,” explains Christopher Dede, a Harvard professor who sits on the Massachusetts 21st Century Skills Task Force. “Some are unique to the 21st century. It’s only relatively recently, for example, that you could get two million hits on an [Internet] search and have to filter down to five that you want.”