21st Century Skills

[I’ve said all this before.  I think that’s ok for a blog.]

Two things we knowI mentioned yesterday morning, some of the conversations I participated in (mostly eavesdropped on) the night before.  It was folks from Maine, New Jersey, and the South Dakota Department of Education.  They were talking about new skills, 21st century skills, work-ready skills, etc.  Much was said about West Virginia and North Carolina and their work with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

I think, though, that the point of pressure for most classroom concerns should be is much more simple.  It is important that kids learn to collaborate, invent, and speak more than one language.  But there are two things that we know for sure.

  1. Information is changing — has changed
  2. We are preparing our children for an unpredictable future

The two knowns point to actions, which I think converge.  To address the changing nature of information, we must look hard at an evolving array of basic literacy skills.  To address a rapidly changing world, the very best thing we can teach our children, is how to teach themselves.

To teach yourself, you must be literate.  Let’s just put them both together and start teaching “learning literacy.”

4 thoughts on “21st Century Skills”

  1. David, I agree that learning literacy should be a major goal, not only for our children, but also for those who are already in the workforce and have many years of career uncertainty ahead of them.

    In my own personal experience, the greatest damage done by schools has been to the will to learn. That is, we train people from the moment they enter school that learning is something that is done to you by other people. You must be “taught,” you must attend a “class” or a workshop to learn. In this process, the natural curiosity with which we are all born seems to die a quick death. Learning is no longer attractive to many people.

    I spend a lot of time doing staff training where I ask questions and give people the tools to find their own answers. I’m there to provide guidance, but my expectation is that they will do their own learning. For most groups, you would think that I was asking them to build a rocket. The idea of doing anything other than having me spoonfeed them “learning,” is beyond their comprehension. I’ve actually had people tell me that I wasn’t “teaching” the right way!

    What concerns me is that we create dependence in learning from the get-go. A major step in developing learning literacy to my mind will be helping people realize that they have it within themselves to explore and learn without having to wait for a teacher.

  2. I read snbeach’s entry about NECC in my RSS aggregator and clicking through found your session at NECC entitled:
    Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape. This sounds compelling, so I began reading…I read that you would begin by clicking blog entries about your session, if any. “If any”? You have got to be kidding, Mr. Warlick! You are an icon! That’s about all I can think…you have got to be kidding!
    Preparing our children with digital literacies in lieu of paper-based literacies is what our job! As Karl Fisch reminds us, those who enter Kindergarten this fall will graduate in 2020. Time is running out and those wrinkles are scrunching up, causing their folds to touch in more and more unexpected places. (It’s not a flat world…it’s a wrinkled one)

  3. This reminds me so much of Costa and Kallick’s Habits of Mind series from a few years ago. See http://www.habits-of-mind.net/whatare.htm for a refresher.
    What anyone learns isn’t nearly as important as learning how to learn, being persistent, having empathy, creativity, and flexibility, being willing to take risks, etc. I did a very short survey with a very small sample of young adults in my own family. Interestingly, each of them holds a job that did exist twenty years ago, Virtually all hold jobs that, to my way of thinking, will exist in twenty years. Most, though not all were college educated. In all cases, though, they provide a service, not a product. the service industry has exploded in the last twenty years, and that’s not likely to slow down. But to be of service to others, you must be empathetic, and know how to learn the new ways of your job. In almost all cases, when asked what they looked for when hiring others, they stressed flexibility and good organization skills. Good information skills (knowing how to find info they need quickly and know how to use them) was also near the tip of the list. Spoon feeding (aka teaching) students will not develop these skills.

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