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What are 21st century skills?

What are 21st century skills?

The 21st century skills are a set of abilities that students need to develop in order to succeed in the information age. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills lists three types:

Learning Skills
  • Critical Thinking is focused, careful analysis of something to better understand it. When people speak of “left brain” activity, they are usually referring to critical thinking. Here are some of the main critical-thinking abilities: analyzing, arguing, classifying, comparing, defining, describing, evaluating, problem-solving, etc
  • Creative Thinking is expansive, open-ended invention and discovery of possibilities. When people speak of “right brain” activity, they most often mean creative thinking. Here are some of the more common creative thinking abilities: brain-storming, creating, innovating, etc.
  • Collaborating is working together with others to achieve a common goal. In this age of social media and crowd sourcing, collaboration is more important than ever. 
  • Communicating is the process of transferring a thought from one mind to others and, in return, receiving thoughts back. Communicating allows minds to tune to each other, thinking together.
Literacy Skills: These help students gain knowledge through reading as well as using media and technology. These skills also help students create knowledge through writing as well as developing media and technology.
  • Information Literacy: Students need to be able to work effectively with information, using it at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating). Information literacy involves traditional skills such as reading, researching, and writing; but new ways to read and write have also introduced new skills: 
    • Consuming information, Now, much information is prepared by amateurs. Some of that work is reliable, but much is not. Students must take on the role of the editor, checking and cross-checking information, watching for signs of bias, datedness, and errors. Students need to look at all information as the product of a communication situation, with a sender, subject, purpose, medium, receiver, and context.
    • Producing information:  Students need to understand that what they write can do great good or great harm in the real world, and that how they write determines how powerful their words are. Students need to take on the role of professional writers, learning to be effective and ethical producers of information
  • Media Literacy: Media literacy involves understanding the many ways that information is produced and distributed. The forms of media have exploded in the last decade and new media arrive every day: includes chapters on understanding media, using social media, and conducting basic and advanced research. The book also provides guidelines and models for creating projects using new media on the Web, using audio and video, and using computer-aided design.
  • Technology Literacy: We are surrounded by technology, and most of it performs multiple functions. By understanding how to evaluate this new information and how to use these new tools to create effective, well-grounded communication, students can harness the power of new technology and be inspired to learn.
Life Skills: Life skills equip students to thrive in the classroom and in the world beyond. The 21st century life skills are flexibility, initiative, social skills, productivity, and leadership.
  • Flexibility: Given the rapid rate of change in our world, the ability to adjust and adapt is critical to success. Students needs to learn to quickly analyze what is going on around them and make adjustments on the fly—all the while keeping their goals at the forefront of their minds. Flexibility is not spinelessness.
  • Initiative: Students need to learn how to set goals for themselves, plan how they will reach their goals, and enact their plans. Once students feel comfortable with charting their own course, they will readily launch into activity.
  • Social Skills: The best way for students to develop social skills is to collaborate with others. When students work together on a project, they have common goals and interests, they are required to develop social skills such as compromise, cooperation, communicating, decision making, etc.
  • Productivity: goal setting, planning, time management, research, etc.
  • Leadership: Leadership is a suite of related skills that combines the other life skills. Good leaders take initiative, have strong social skills, are flexible, and are productive.