Monday, January 5, 2009

21st Century Skills Round-Up

I've been following the term "21st century skills" on Google Reader for a few weeks and looking at blogs that regularly address the topic. Initially, I saw mostly mentions of the term without much further discussion. Now I think the conversation is heating up.

Here is a brief summary of what I'm seeing in other blogs and some articles. (I will be reviewing some major reports in another post.)

Overuse.
Increasingly, I am seeing school districts incorporating the term 21st century skills into their missions and slogans, politicians using the term in speeches, and vendors claiming that their products and services promote development of those skills. Will the term become meaningless or distrusted before long—like "transformation" and "paradigm shift"?

Just a Fad. Some are casting the term as another buzzword or fad. In the Washington Post, Jay Mathews calls 21st century skills "The Latest Doomed Pedagogical Fad."

The semantics debate.
Are we talking about skills or literacies or habits of mind? Is communication still defined as reading, writing, speaking, and listening, or does it need to be redefined? Good discussion on Strength of Weak Ties.

Objections to the modifier 21st century. Haven't many of the skills cited as 21st century always been important? See The Edge of Tomorrow. Also, Keeping Kids First makes the point that people in 2090 will be laughing at our concept of 21st century skills.

Emphasis on Tools. Many blogs and social networks that are dedicated to discussions of technology in education seem to equate 21st century skills with use of Web 2.0 and multimedia tools. It will be interesting to see if this thread gains branches.

Concern about Balance. Many bloggers commented on Andrew Rotherham's Dec. 15 article in U.S. News and World Report expressed concern that content will be shortchanged. While I haven't seen evidence of his claim that "some 21st-century skills proponents believe these skills should replace the teaching of content," he highlights an important issue. I also applaud the assertion of Daniel Willingham on the Britannica Blog that the crucial improvement needs to be deep understanding and the application of knowledge. The Compass Point had a good take on this debate.

Concerns about Equity. Will suburban kids be taught 21st century skills while low-income kids learn basics? This has been briefly mentioned.

I have not yet seen anything of substance about arts learning and 21st century skills.

1 comment:

thecompasspoint said...

On the topic of Arts learning and 21st century skills...have you seen this?
http://thecompasspoint.wordpress.com/2007/09/11/how-the-arts-deepen-students-thinking/
It references some good research. And while not specifically mentioning the cliche "21st century skills"- they are certainly on the list.
- Josie