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21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills, what are they? Which are the most important? Can you teach them? How do you assess them?  That all depends on who you ask.  According to Tony Wagner, 21st Century Skills include:

Tony Wagner DefinitionImage

In this video of a Ted Talk by Tony Wagner, he states that the world no longer cares what you know because knowledge has become a commodity, like air and water, that is free.  The world is now concerned with what you can do with what you know, or, whether you have the skill and the will to use the freely available knowledge.

Of course, Tony Wagner if just one of many respected experts. Another is Will Richardson.
Will Richardson has charted several skills he identifies as 21st Century Skills, according to how difficult these skills are to assess:
Some of these are the same as the skills outlined by Tony Wagner, some are different.

Still another expert, Laura Greenstein, sorts 21st Century Skills into 3 categories, with many sub-categories. Those categories? Thinking, Acting, and Living. Within each category, there are several subcategories, as seen here:


Again, many of the skills she mentions are the same as Wagner, and Richardson, but there are differences. So, if you can teach and assess all of these 21st Century Skills our experts tell us about, you must be a superhero.

So, what’s the answer? Start somewhere.  Narrow your focus to the 21st Century Skills you believe to be the most important.  For me,  that means focusing on Critical Thinking & Problem Solving, along with Creativity & Imagination.

Why is problem-solving (and the use of critical thinking in the process) important? Ken Watanabe points out that everyone has to make decisions, big or small. In the process, we set goals, encounter obstacles, and work to achieve those goals. Problem-solving has even been highlighted in the Common Core (Saxena).  The skill of problem solving can be taught and assessed through the use of games, both traditional and technology supported, such as Minecraft, etc. Need a few suggestions…watch this!

The other most important 21st Century Skill, in my opinion, is Creativity, or the use of the imagination. This is not easy to be taught, or measured, but it is possible. Sir Ken Robinson says so:

It is important to be creative and use the imagination in thinking critically and problem-solving. Naturally creative people tend to use a process to solve problems without actively thinking about that process while doing so. Less naturally-creative people can be taught to use the process, and will probably have to actively think through the steps in the process while solving their problems (Baumgartner). Larmer offers ideas for teaching and assessing creativity in Project Based Learning (PBL). He, too, offers a process to go about innovating creatively. One would then teach this process to students to use in problem-solving using their creativity. He even offers Rubrics to assess creativity. These could be uploaded to a technology platform such as ForAllRubrics, and used either for teacher-student assessment, or peer-peer assessment, or even student self-assessment.

Mike Petty also discusses the use of games to teach and assess creativity. Most of his suggestions are traditional games, or non-traditional but also not technology-based. If you’re looking for technology-based games to teach Creativity, once again we can turn to a game like Minecraft.

So, what’s the key thing to remember? Start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to fail and try again. Soon, you’ll find what works best for you in your classroom. Then, maybe you’ll end up feeling “On Top Of The World”!


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