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What are 21st Century Skills, and How Can I Start Teaching Them?

What are 21st Century Skills, and How Can I Start Teaching Them?

The 21st century world is like none we have ever seen. Driven by technology, it requires learners to have skills to interface with it and to utilize it in ways that push productivity and innovation. Today’s learners need skills not only to work with technology successfully, but they also need to learn life skills in the classroom that employers require after they graduate. As a teacher, you can help learners learn how to use technology successfully and how to be ready to operate in the 21st century environment.

There are dozens of 21st century skills that learners should learn, but here are some of the top ones, according to the Global Digital Citizen Foundation:

  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Analytical thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Ethics, accounting, and accountability.

Problems that we can’t think of will present themselves to learners in the future. They need to be able to manage the thought process involved in coming up with effective solutions. Good problem solvers don’t need to be micromanaged, and they take the initiative. They learn from their mistakes and adjust accordingly.

As a teacher, you can present problems for your learners to solve by giving them challenges to solve in imaginative ways. Encourage their creativity. Creativity inspires learners to see beyond the obvious. Encourage its growth in the classroom.

Learners also need to be able to think analytically. They should know how to synthesize information from different sources, apply what they learn, evaluate it, and to think deeply about it in general. learners can be very good at describing but not necessarily skilled in thinking of how to deal with problems in a deeper way.

Today’s learners are skilled in using social media. They constantly are in communication with each other. Have your learners work on projects in teams that get them to engage with each other inside and outside the classroom by working on a blog or creating a website together. Maybe they can create a presentation together and share and edit it collaboratively on Google Slides. In today’s world of global business, learners need to know how to work with one another in creative ways across the miles.

Learners should know how to communicate not only in writing, but visually. Build your learners’ abilities to use visual media to express ideas. Also, encourage their communication through blogging, chat, text, voice and other methods.

Finally, children should learn what it means to be a responsible citizen. This includes using the Internet and technology to help make the world a better place. In your classroom, encourage class projects that improve the community or the world at large.

While all of this can seem challenging, as a teacher, one of the best ways to do it is to learn about project-based learning. In this model of teaching, teachers present a problem to learners and help them discover the skills they will need to complete it. The projects are usually based on something the learners are learning about and are interested in. They work together to solve a particular problem, and they do the research to figure it out. The teacher provides mini-lessons in certain skills and helps them discover rules they need to apply to their work as they move through the project.

Another idea is the flipped classroom. At home, learners do the work necessary to participate in a deep class discussion or project that occurs based on what they read. Instead of lecturing in class, learners can listen to a podcast or watch a video the teacher creates, work through an independent activity to discover important rules of a lesson, read an article, research a certain topic, or otherwise come to class already prepared with knowledge of the topic of the day.

L Norman

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