Survival skills for the 21st century
Education has become one the nation’s top priorities in the 21st century. The introduction of the Common Core State Standards over the last few years has brought this oft-debated subject to the forefront of discussions held at backyard barbecues and within the halls of our state capitols. What does a quality education in the 21st century mean? What skills will our children need to develop to be able to contribute to our rapidly shifting society? While the CCSS lay out certain academic expectations, there are a few other 21st century survival skills that still lurk in the background. Of course our students need to be digitally literate, but they also need to cultivate more subtle 21st century skills that will serve as foundations to their success.
You often hear teachers complain about the short-attention spans of their students, that they become easily bored by lessons and are impatient. While some are quick to blame the society of instant gratification in which these students grew up, others simply see it as a symptom of laziness.
With so much technology available to grab their attention – from video games to hundreds of TV cable channels – Daniel Willingham, professor and director of graduate studies in psychology at the University of Virginia, argues that today’s digital natives have not had to learn to continue to pay attention in the face of slight boredom. While the integration of adaptive learning software and other technological innovations may help sustain student interest, 21st century students will need to develop the capacity for patience.
In today’s multifaceted world, sometimes it appears as if there is no one right answer for any question. This is a marked departure from the sheets of times tables completed in classrooms of yore. Instead of memorizing rules, 21st century students are expected to employ critical thinking skills that will help them see the problems they are presented with from many different angles, and develop multiple solutions. Problem-solving is a key skill that students will be able to draw upon as they enter the 21st century workforce and are expected to think critically rather than regurgitate information.
Although leadership is certainly a desirable quality, the ability to collaborate as a member of a team is just as highly valued in today’s workforce. Innovative offices in Silicon Valley make a point of creating spaces where team members work closely together and formulate new ideas and products. In America’s classrooms, the emphasis on collaboration is beginning to take hold in the form of blended learning, where teachers use a combination of computer software and small-group work to help students master the ability to work together harmoniously.
While science and math are not typically thought of as creative subjects, 21st century students must learn to insert creativity into everything they do – including those tasks that put left-brain thinking to use. The ability to use their imaginations and brainstorm new innovations and inventions will serve 21st century students well as they head off to college and enter the workforce.
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