M2U2A2 21st Century Skills

Per the Activity Overview, it’s almost a truism when we state that most students are familiar with the use of technology tools and devices. Whereas the days of copious, scribbled notes are not extinct, they are passé. Consequently, as technology brings worldwide competition and practices close to home, education has had no choice than to bow to digital application within its curriculum. To wit, despite rumblings against (for instance) gaming, and the number of hours some youth commit to that digital activity, recent studies have revealed great achievements as a result of the practice. The obvious accomplishment measured in cash terms, is the success of those who are professional gamers e.g. “Korea‘s Park “Lyn” Joon earned most of his cash playing WarCraft III.” who earned “USD $317,610.95 from 77 Tournaments.”1. This game-based learning now forms the core entertainment category that helps make daily lessons more engaging; it is aptly called “Edutainment.” Applications such as Songify, turn speech into music. Nancy Branchbill of RecessTec, “views Songify as a memorization tool and has her fifth graders Songify their class notes or use the app to learn steps in a process2.

Other equally noteworthy advantages of the application of digital technology, have been those noted by the scientific community: the development of hand-eye co-ordination, the astounding results in neurological therapies (e.g. autism) and of course, medical advances such as tele-surgery. Tele-surgery was born in September 2001 with Operation Lindbergh; Dr. Jacques Marescaux in New York performed a cholecystectomy on a patient in Strasbourg, France.3 Science and Technology define the 21st Century. In 1995 a communication provider boasted its domination via its fiber-optic cables crisscrossing the world, represented by a picture of a ball of yarn. In 2015, bar astrological maps, the ball of yarn cannot compare with the simplest drawing of a connection representative of the worldwide web. Global interaction is an integral part of our lives today. Environmental concerns, educational outreaches, cross-border medical practices (as aforementioned) etc. bring us into the “virtual classroom”. The Teacher is no longer a single entity but is now the voice of many due to exponential resources at one’s fingertips. Basic applications such as Adobe, TeamViewer etc. offer collaboration opportunities locally and globally. Traditional teaching has been re-focused to a digital approach well-exemplified by “The South Kent Story”4; this is 21st Century Learning at its best.

21st Century education produced a new relationship in which, the teacher is also the student and the student is also the teacher. Teachers are encouraged to build upon the knowledge their students already possess. “Constructivism proposes that new knowledge is constructed from old5: with this as the rudder, it behooves each educator to promote and appreciate inclusion of the students’ experiences, life skills, and technological skills. Core disciplines of mathematics and languages are experienced before formal education – e.g. the toddler’s request for two cookies instead of one and the very language in which that request is made. Numbers and words form our educational landscape involuntarily. Notwithstanding if “One of our goals is to help students become iKids and truly global citizens6, then education should move even further away from traditional templates. Or, as Scott McLeod puts it, “Your assignment… is to take education truly into the 21st century.7 However, it is prudent to be aware of false equivalencies within the interpretation of 21st Century tools of education. There are some teaching methods that are not 21st Century but remain crucial to the curriculum, in particular with primary education. A teacher’s use of a television / projector as a prop in her classroom is not strictly speaking, 21st Century education despite the fact that the television (enabling instant transmission) was invented in 1909. It is well to note that kindergarteners require human interaction to ensure balanced psychological development. There are many learning styles that necessitate accommodation. Therefore, despite occasional use of digital technology, the educational methodology remains basically traditional.

In addition to all of the above, teachers must ignite their students’ curiosity (a quality paramount to ingenuity and entrepreneurism). They must also manage to integrate “the use of technology to help students access, manage, and use information in an ethical manner, and create media products” here, emphasize “ethical”. Most of the new Apps are created by the under twenty’s and great responsibility is attached to this explosion of media products. The very trite statement applies, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Students must be directed towards service oriented contributions. Global awareness and involvement in project-based learning (PBL) are easily achieved as demonstrated by the clip “Digital Learners: A Vision for the Future8. The video clip demonstrates the power of pooled resources, cross-boarder. The teacher accessed several educational sites and contacted a teacher in Freiburg, Germany conducting a similar project on clean technology. The students were able to use their computers, iPads or android phones to access relevant information. At the end of this PBL, the students were able to see the far-reach and unanticipated positive impact locally and nationally of their work which was aired subsequently by the David Suzuki Foundation. PBL should be a mandatory component of educational curricula. PBL intertwines 21st Century interdisciplinary themes of global awareness, collaboration for the greater good, cross-culture that subjugates prejudice, breaks-down language barriers creating a vision of one world, one people, one knowledge (characterized by science and technology), and ensures unity in diversity.

The fastest growing market of entrepreneurs in the 21st Century reflects 21st Century technology – digital applications. Nevertheless, it is imperative that students “also learn the essential skills for success in today’s world, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration.”9.  In this way, so long as teachers manage the shift “to take education truly into the 21st century” the preparation of children to function effectively in the 21st Century and beyond would be holistic and complete. The commitment must be made and the future must not be overlooked. As President John F. Kennedy said, those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”


1    http://tiny.cc/30w3zx BusinessInsider.com, Karyne Levy and Kyle Russell, 15 of the Highest Paid Professional Gamers, May 28, 2014

2    http://tiny.cc/8pw3zx  TechCrunch.com, Prerna Gupta, Can Technology Transform Information Before It’s Too Late, January 15, 2012

3    http://tiny.cc/gwx3zx and http://tiny.cc/shy3zx Wikipedia and PubMed, G.H. Ballantyne, Robotic Surgery, Telerobotic Surgery, Telepresence, and Telementoring. Review of early clinical results, October 16, 2002

4    http://tiny.cc/0uy3zx Class Book Videos, Interview with Andrew Vadnais, Head of School, A True Digital Classroom / The South Kent Story, (Uploaded February 29, 2012)

5    http://tiny.cc/5nz3zx Edutopia.org, George Lucas Educational Foundation, What Works In Education, Rebecca Alber, Are You Tapping into Prior Knowledge Often Enough in Your Classroom?, July 11, 2011

6    http://tiny.cc/p0z3zx 21st Century Schools Education, Copyright 2010

7    http://tiny.cc/p0z3zx / http://tiny.cc/4e03zx 21st Century Schools Education, Copyright 2010, Scott McLeod (blog), Dangerously Irrelevant

8    http://tiny.cc/hr03zx Video, Trifectamedia, Digital Learners: A Vision for the Future (Uploaded August 17, 2011)

9    http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework Partnership For 21st Century Learning / Framework For 21st Century Learning


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