21st century skills

Some consider 21st century skills to be the 4 Cs as opposed to the industrial revolution’s 3 Rs:

Critical Thinking

I should have thought these skills belonged to any society at any time. How did we get the Sistine Chapel? The Pyramids? Chaucer’s Tales, Beowolf, Cicero’s poetry? How did we invent ovens, farm machinery, windmills, ships, telescopes? You know what I mean. These skills belong to us as human groups working together day by day through the ages and they give us the dazzling brilliance of art and performing arts and the spectacular breakthroughs in cancer treatments, penicillin, bridges, space shuttles. We think, create, communicate and collaborate and always have done. Why would these be considered 21st century skills? The piece which is missing is now it is all quite different. We can broadcast across the world. We can make a YouTube clip which gets 3 million views. We can put our work and research on the internet and get thousands of followers, hundreds of likes, tweets, retweets, comments. We can create and share like in no other way in history and we can collaborate and create across the planet in a way we have never been able to do. We can crowd source. We have the power of one and an internet connection. I am certain when you think about it, you will see other ways in which these foundation skills are so different now.

The NSW Department of Education and Communities put out a paper in 2012 about 21st century skills for Australian students. It is worth reading and one of the highlighted quotes is:

“To cope with the demands
of the 21st century, people
need to know more than core
subjects. They need to know
how to use their knowledge
and skills by thinking critically,
applying knowledge to
new situations, analyzing
information, comprehending
new ideas, communicating,
collaborating, solving
problems, making decisions.”

– Partnership for 21st Century Skills

In 2009 there was a research a paper put out by Katerina Ananiadou and Magdalean Claro on 21st Century Skills and Competencies for New Millennium Learners in OECD Countries discussing issues related to the teaching and assessment of 21st century skills and competencies in OECD countries drawing on the findings of a questionnaire study and other relevant background material such as white papers or curriculum documents. It takes time to read but the study is very interesting and the paper looks at 21st century skills this way:

In this section we present a framework for conceptualising the competences discussed in this study;
they can be thought of in terms of three dimensions: information, communication and ethics and social


The paper asks some good questions at the end and these questions are the ones we need to focus on all the time. Assessment practices and teacher training and development always need to be considered because technology changes and the capacity to engage with technology changes. Teachers need to always be aware of the impact and possibilities.

We are finishing this discussion section with some open questions that will hopefully encourage
reflection and discussion on this important policy topic:

 What are the key success factors for 21st century skills policies?21st
1. High-quality and relevant teacher training?
2. Curriculum integration?
3. Clear and rigorous assessment?
 Should 21st century skills be integrated into subject-based curricula?
 Are ICT skills different from the others and should they accordingly have a different treatment in
policy terms?
 How can we involve teachers in the overall debate and in the design of teacher training
programmes in particular?
 What types of assessment are appropriate for the monitoring and evaluation of 21st century skills
and competencies? How can they be developed?
We are aware that there are no easy answers to these questions, but we hope that an open and
informed debate on them will be the first step towards designing high quality education policies for the
citizens and workers of the 21st century.


ICT – where now?

This video is 5 years old , has great music and sums up well where we have been and how we have striven to get technology into classrooms. We have worked hard on developing 21st century learning skills. The video also points to where we need to be looking now:

We need to recognize we can no longer simply educate students to become technology users – and consumers – without also helping them learn how to become critical thinkers about technology and the social issues surrounding its use.

Cynthia L. Selfe

It’s about finding the right tool for the job, looking at what is appropriate and not appropriate in terms of apps and software, looking for the most effective way or ways of presenting information or gathering information. Students are surrounded by technology out of school. As teachers we need to be aware of what is popular, what it means, what the social impact is and whether these tools can serve other purposes which would suit our educational needs. As the other Ms. Selfe quote says, we have to pay attention to technology. We have to be aware, share and dare to be different sometimes and allow that all to be peer reviewed. As teachers we need to take safe, well considered steps but if we discuss our ideas and think them through with others, there is no reason we should not try to make sound educational use of what is now a banquet of apps, software, tools and tricks. We are lucky we are connected teachers because we have the opportunity at any time of the day or night to get professional feedback and encouragement . We are never stopped, blocked or held up with what we need to do and we can validate our ideas as we have them no matter when.Our real and virtual connections mean we can be more adventurous and secure in our planning and ideas development.

The 21st Century – are we there yet?

I love the Jetsons. It was a cartoon series which finished in 1963 and had a revival with better technology to produce it in 1985. The Jetsons lived in the 21st century. Elroy’s Dad drove him to school in the flying car and then ejected him in a space pod to Dipper Elementary School. In 2062 Elroy had a robot teacher with all of its glitches. The bad boy is sitting there reading a paper book and watching a video on his phone watch. These watches are just coming onto the market now. Elroy has a jet pack to fly around the classroom and the school reports are produced on tapes to go home. No thought of email and file attachment or an online portal.No thought of e-books and the robot teacher is quite the martinet. So, do we actually have a vision of what we want 21st century schools to look like? Do we want robot teachers? Jet packs in class? Watch phones with wifi access? Flying cars? There is a black board with maths written all over it in this episode. When Elroy gets into so much trouble from his parents he runs away from home. The bad boy rings up his parents on the Visiophone and tells the truth about the report switch. We have video phones and, occasionally, we have children who run away from home. Wouldn’t the report have had the wrong name on it when George was listening to it? Do they not identify children in the 21st century? Why ruin a good story with the truth! So, while we are imagining an 21st education scenario, how much is it going to be as faulty as the Jetson’s predications? I love the Jetsons. My favourite cartoon. It’s a cartoon, though. When we are doing our thinking and planning we are in the real world with real students and their families. We need to be looking at emotional intelligence with regard to technology as well as dedicated use. Relationship building is a core skill of teachers as is trouble shooting. A robot teacher might be useful but is it the answer and if we create robot teachers, what do we actually want them to do and be? If we don’t have input as teachers, we’ll get technology devices which don’t suit our purposes, don’t suit our purposes, don’t suit our purposes.

Shift Happens – 2014 remix

I remember seeing the 2008 version of this and it gave me so much to think about. Technology is having a significant impact and drawing the world together globally in ways we could not even have imagined. As a classroom teacher it has implications. You have to think technology and not device. You have to work on being a problem solver and teach your students to be partners in learning with you. No one person can know everything and no one device is going to be THE answer. It is constantly finding the means to the end and adapting to new situations. Adapting your thinking and way of doing things is what is constant. The world is but a school of inquiry ~ Michel de Montaigne.

How do you teach collaboration?


Genuine participation

How do you teach collaboration? I have been thinking about this because it is now very much part of high powered learning  institutions and work places. Group work and working together can often mean one or two people do the work and others just warm the seat. Even if you create an assessment which shows up lack of participation , it will  not alter the down side of group work. I have just tried group presentation and assessment with my junior students. These are good students but they find it hard to work in groups to collaborate and find it hard to listen to individual presentations in front of the class. They have laptops and iPads and theses devices have ascendency over anyone or anything. These students were born in 2000. They are different and they learn quite differently. I told them of my plan for our last presentation of the year, went away and drew up the assessment rubrics and brought them back to class. My Year 9s took this very seriously and came up with some valid adjustments to the form. Yesterday we had the group presentations and I could not have predicted how absorbed and committed they were to serious presentation to their group and bona fide assessment. We had chosen our own groups of 4 and we had an electronic form to fill out and upload to the learner management system. They all participated. Their use of technology to present to each other was inventive and a cut above how we normally use it. They could see having a laptop meant they could really get some power out of being someone who had important information to share. They also understood that the assessment of each other was a good way to help each other and then encourage each other to do even better next time because the form has some clear indicators of performance. To complete the assessment we did our feedback on Twiducate. I asked the following questions:

1. Did you enjoy researching the French Revolution? Would you recommend it for next Year 9s?
2. Did you think the assessment form allowed you to have a fair assessment?
3. Did you like peer assessment? Is it a good way to be assessed?
4. Do you think you were given a fair and reasonable hearing?
5. Would you prefer to present to a small group or a whole class?
6. Anything else?

These are typical of the responses:

1. Researching about the French Revolution was difficult as there is so much inaccurate information on the internet as well as biased information. But it was good to research information about France and how the French Revolution has shaped the country and also has had an impact on the world.
2. I think the assessment form was good but there should be a more variety of choices instead of three- 🙂 :/ 😦
3. Peer assessment was fantastic as it was more relaxed and you could stop and people could talk or ask questions about what they think. I enjoyed it much more than class assessment.
4. I think everyone was given a fair chance
5. I prefer presenting in front of a small group as it is more relaxed and enjoyable.

1. Yes the French Revolution was a fun topic to research because the French Revolution was an interesting part of history.
2. Yes I believe so.
3. Peer assessment is a good form of marking because the students get to mark based on what they like/don’t like when it is usually the teacher.
4. I believe I was marked fairly.
5. A small group would be better to present to because your are more confident with a smaller group of students.
6. No

With their input I now have an even better group assessment form for next year.

Josefine Grimm-Blenk

Virtual Assistant


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