Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Got Skillz?

Reader Dave, whose blog you should check out BTW, writes:
21st Century Skills, 22nd Century Skills, they're all the same. We really want to teach our students to be critical thinkers and self-learners.

Without being too convoluted, I respectfully disagree.

Critical thinking and autodidactism aren't 21st or 22nd century skills. They are skills of human intellect going back millenia.

What I'm talking about in terms of 21st century skills are the unique skills associated with the new immediately connected global network. This sort of network acumen goes well beyond traditional inter- and intra-personal skills.

As for 22nd century skills, I'm thinking about the sorts of seemingly sci-fi things that may be possible in merging digital with bio/neurological connectedness. Far out stuff. Visionary stuff. In fact, I use the term 'visionary' specifically with reference to the fact that it nearly lies beyond the imagination.

I think it's very important, however, that Dave brings up this issue. I've been thinking about it quite a bit lately.

For one thing, I think we need to recognize the fact that we are at the very beginning of something. It's not even 2010. Considering the fact that cars, airplanes, and machine guns were in their infancy in 1910 yet automobiles, air travel, and mechanized warfare became the icons of the 20th century's industrial age speaks volumes.

We don't know where this is going to lead. And for that very reason, in my post yesterday I proposed we take some time to imagine the unimaginable. It's going to take critical thinkers and autodidacts to imagine that place; but they've always been with us. And they got skillz.


  1. I see your point. When I think of 21st and 22nd century skills, I too think of being able to utilize new technologies and work in new paradigms. However, I see too many educational types using 21st Century skills to mean: project based learning, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving. These are things that I was doing as a student many years ago.

    For me, I see us needing to teach students how to think critically and solve problems, learn on their own, and be creative and adaptable. We should use new technologies and show them how the world is changing so that they can adapt to new things. We can't prepare them for every specific future job or thing, but we can give them base skills that will help them be prepared for anything.

    I think we need to really define 21st Century Skills better so that this kind of confusion doesn't keep happening.

  2. Yes! A definition is needed, mainly because P21 does not get what 21st Century Skills really are. *Way too many* educators lump those traditional skills that Dave noted in with the skills that are actually new to the 21st Century.

    I'm with you, Shelley, just realize that our definitions of 21st Century Skills are not the commonly accepted definition of 21c skills from places such as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.


  3. Here is a timely webinar about 21st century skills. Should be interesting.


  4. What is not being talked about is the idea that digital networked learning is going to replace analog networked learning...in other words the internet and personal learning networks(digital networks) are going to evolve out of schools (analog networks) which will disappear. I guess that means we will all have to become teachers rather than educators!

    I suggest Vernor Vigne's Rainbows End as a great read to see a version of this imagined future.

  5. @MrC

    Vigne's is an interesting read. Mentioned him in an article I wrote a while back: http://education.change.org/blog/view/talking_21st_century_skills_blues

    I like the idea of being a teacher.



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