21st Century Skills

The skills that the students today need in order to be successful in future jobs are not necessarily the same skills that we needed or learned about in school.  This new set of skills is referred to as 21st Century Skills.  One of the simplest definitions comes from Curriculum 21 where they define 21st Century Skills as “skills students need to be successful in the 21st century. They include: cross-curricular skills and learning to learn skills”.  This doesn’t mean that the core content – reading, writing, math, science, and history to name a few are no longer important, it means that students need to learn that and more.  They need to learn how to interact with a world that is always changing and will mostly be digital.  The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has a fantastic overview of 21st Century Skill.  The following video summarizes the rapid shifts that are occurring in the world around us.  Our task is to prepare our students the best that we can so that they can be critical thinkers and problem solvers.  

Here is a list of possible ways that you can help at home to enhance your child’s 21st Century Skills



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Technology as the Bridge for Proficiency Based Education

Proficiency Based Education (PBE) is not a new concept in education.  In the 1920’s, Mastery Education was introduced where students could move at their own pace until they had mastered a set of standards.

Entire textbook series were created in order to allow for this.  So why did PBE die out the first time?  Money.  A school needed to be able to invest in this new series of textbooks.  In the 1960’s, Bloom and his protege Block reintroduced the idea of students progressing at a pace that was appropriate for them and demonstrating mastery of a skill.  So why did PBE die out the second time?  Again, money was an issue, but there was also a resistance to educational reform.

It is 2013, and PBE in education is here for a third time.  What makes it more possible this time?  Technology.  This is the bridge that allows for PBE to happen in our 21st century digital classrooms.  Rather than having to purchase an entire series of textbooks as schools had to in the 1920’s and 1960’s, technology is already at the fingertips of all of our teachers and students. Customization has what it needs to finally be implemented.  

 There are two types of technology use in PBE.  First, there is technology to track student progress through the standards that students, parents, and teachers can access.  Second, there is technology to demonstrate and facilitate learning.  This second type of technology is utilized by students to demonstrate mastery of a standard or to demonstrate an activity that students work through to prepare for standard mastery.  Although PBE utilizes technology, it does not replace teaching, facilitating, and guiding from teachers.  Students still interact with peers and teachers in a PBE classroom, but technology allows for the facilitation of learning at their pace.  This is a topic that I have talked and presented about several times.  


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Digital Docent – The Bridge to Connect Digital Generations

Digital Docent – The Bridge to Connect Digital Generations

The blue people represent digital natives, and the red people represent digital immigrants. The digital docents are the ones connected by the doted line on both sides of the dark black line.

Recently I have been learning more about and giving presentations on the students who walk into our classrooms every day.  A common phrase uttered by teachers is “my students today just can’t ______ like they students in the past have”.  What I have found from my learning is that the students in todays classrooms simply aren’t wired the same way students used to be, so that means they don’t learn always naturally learn in the same ways.
The students who come to school today are accustomed to interacting with the world in a digital way, they are known as digital natives.  “They were all born after 1980, when social digital technologies, such as Usenet and bulletin board systems, came online.  They all have access to networked digital technologies.  And they all have the skills to use those technologies” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2008, pg. 1).
On the flip side, there is a second term used for people are do not interact with the digital world as natively, they are known as digital immigrants.  “A person who has adopted the Internet and related technologies, but who was born prior to the advent of the digital age” (Palfrey & Grasser, 2008, pg. 346).
I would like to introduce a new third term: digital docent.  When you go to any museum in the United States the who gives tours is known as a docent.  The word docent is from the Latin word docēns, which means to teach.  These are the people who grew up on the edge of all of this technology.  They can connect with how both the digital natives and the digital immigrants view the digital world.
Currently in the education world there are is a huge push to integrate technology into the classroom.  The challenge is that many of our current educators are digital immigrants. This isn’t a bad thing, it just adds another challenge when trying to integrate technology.  The digital docents who are also teachers are essential to ensuring the successful integration of technology.  It is their job to act as the bridge between the digital natives and digital immigrants.  The digital docent has the capacity to teach as the Latin root of the word suggests both of these groups.  The big question is how best to facilitate this teaching bridge.

Digital Natives Resources

Marc Prensky Essays


Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering For Real Learning Introduction

The Reformers Are Leaving Our Schools in the 20th Century

Suggested Reading List

Palfrey Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

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