21st Century Skills Map for the English Curriculum

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The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, along with the National Council of Teachers of English have produced a document [pdf] that provides a framework for educators, with teacher-created models of how 21st century skills can be infused into the English classroom.

Kylene Beers, president of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) said,

“This framework, which includes examples taken directly from proven classroom practices, represents an exciting tool for teachers and students as they move toward a 21st century education system.  The map also mirrors the evolving nature of NCTE, as we ensure our organization and members possess the tools and resources that are required for success in the 21st century.”

The press release continues,

..the map cites specific student outcomes and provides project models that will result in enhanced student achievement in grades four, eight and 12. For example, fourth graders, after reading several folktales and viewing two to three cartoons, write their own contemporary version of a folktale and present them as a stop-motion or Claymation film. This helps students, through typical reading and project work, learn how to communicate new ideas to others and demonstrate originality and inventiveness in schoolwork.

My hat’s off to the folks at P21CS and NCTE for this valuable document.  It indicates the kind of momentum that we are starting to witness in the U.S.

It is our tendency, however, to see this as a “problem solved.”  It seems to me that the nature of 21st century skills (a term that really doesn’t mean much to most of our students) is that they are a rapidly evolving mesh of techniques — that as our political, economic, scientific, social, physical environments, and the logic infrastructure of our information landscape continue to change, what we need to know and what we need to know how to do with it will constantly be shifting, growing, and becoming ever more interesting.

Screen shot of SnapTell by Berthboerland

Last week, at the Leading & Learning Conference in Central Alberta, I explained in one of my concurrent sessions that when I was growing up and for much of my adult life, I needed to know how to use an index, table of contents, Dewey Decimal system, and have a basic mastery of the alphabet to find the information I needed.  These skills represented the information-scarce environment that we lived in.

In contrast, I demonstrated Snaptell Explorer, an iPhone app that enables me to wirelessly access Internet-based information about a book, CD, or DVD, simply by taking a picture of it.  One participant suggested that it might be simpler to just write down the title of the book and author on paper and then look it up at home. 

Very true. 

But my point was not that everyone needs to be using Snaptell.  My point was that our information landscape has become so intertwined with the physical world, that we live in, that basic 21st century skills, not to mention basic literacy skills, must be, by nature, adaptable.  Information users must be resourcefully adaptable — and hard standards do not serve this reality well.

Again, what I’ve read through in the 21st Century English Skills Map [pdf] does a great job of illustrating classroom activities that involve creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and information literacy.  they paint a good picture of what this looks like.  But collaborative environments for professional educators (master learners) are also necessary to provide for continued conversation and idea development.

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5 thoughts on “21st Century Skills Map for the English Curriculum”

  1. Hi David
    I must say that you are correct with ’21st Century skills’ being a mesh of tools. Most of the reading I have done around this seems to work around tools to solve the ’21st Century problem’ when in fact the very intertwining of physical and information worlds mean that the idea of tools are wrong. The process of thinking, adapting using whatever is available is the skill that needs to be developed.
    Some people have recently started looking at this here in Scotland. Would you mind if we used your post in the wiki? http://education2020.wikispaces.com/

  2. I hadn’t heard about Snaptell, and I’m glad you mentioned it. It’s a great illustration of the kind qualitative shift we’re seeing from “information access” to “information filtering.” Now that I can access the information about this book, how do I relate it to the other things I know? How is it relevant? As you point out, these are the questions that we need to teach students to answer well.

  3. With all the focus on Web 2.0 technologies it is empowering to see NCTE spell out some of the 21st century literacy skills for students. It’s a valuable document to begin to document the specific skills and how they can be cultivated.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this map. I think all English teachers should have a copy of this! I am especially appreciative of tools that aid teachers in taking their classrooms to the next level in providing students with 21st century learning activities and skills. I think the organization of the map is very user friendly. The examples are especially helpful. In fact, I love the idea of asking students to create a movie trailer after reading a novel. My students read The Giver every year and I have been searching for new, creative projects. The movie trailer project asks students to concentrate on universal questions that are raised in the novel, which is something we would do in a classroom discussion, but it takes it a step further and brings in media that will definitely engage kids. Movie trailers and film in general are really important to kids, and tapping into this interest will result in engaged students who value the project, and therefore take more value from the learning activity.

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