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Posts Tagged ‘skills

@elfgoh is wondering what skills students should learn. He tweeted in #edsg and shared his question on Facebook.

Here is my response.

I do not think he was referring to school-based skills or values or attitudes. In the context of the last #edsg chat, I think he might be thinking of 21st century skills or competencies. Or he could just be thinking about how students might be prepared for an uncertain future.

My suggestion is that students learn to LAMP: be Literate, be Adaptable, have Multiple Perspectives.

Why LAMP? Simply because I believe that education is the lighting of the lamp, not the filling of the pail.

By being literate I mean that students should have have literacies basic, information, digital, social, and more. (Yeah, I cheated because this is actually a suite of skills, but this does not make them any less important.)

Learning to adapt is a skill that helps when circumstances change unexpectedly. Adaptability is useful in emergencies, in business, and in various aspects of daily life.

Finally, being able to take multiple perspectives keeps a broad and inquiring mind. I would argue that you have only learnt something when you adopt someone else’s perspective.

These are skills that current schooling does not necessarily emphasize or provide. They are what I expect of my son and my learners to master. These skills are are all enablers of lifelong, lifewide learning.

I think that these are timely skills given today’s context. They are also timeless because you could mention most of them 100 years ago (digital literacy being the exception) and they would still be relevant.


Video source

There are several iterations and remixes of the Did You Know/Shift Happens video by Fisch and company. Now from New Brunswik, Canada, comes a video I’d like to call Do You Realize.

The Did You Know series presents thought-provoking factoids that might stimulate questions or discussions about whether current schooling prepares students for the 21st century. The Do You Realize video goes a step further and provides some examples of how we might actually do this.

But we might need to take a step back before pushing forward. I think that we do not have a common and clear vision on what these desirable 21st century attributes are. A quick search will reveal many definitions and frameworks of 21st century thinking, skills, attitudes, behaviours, etc.

For example,

One could try to identify the similarities from all these examples and say that this distillation represents the wisdom of many parties. But I think we need to be more critical. Just what makes a 21st century property something that is uniquely 21st century?

A commonly cited 21st century trait is collaboration. Is collaboration only important now or in the future? Did generations in the past not collaborate? The obvious answer to both questions is of course not! The same could be said about other traits like communication or creativity or empathy for others.

At the risk of oversimplifying the argument, what these separate bodies have suggested as 21st century traits are actually ones that are mediated, emphasized or exacerbated by rapidly evolving technology.

Current and future technologies are allowing us to publish, share and communicate more easily. The world is flatter and smaller because we are not only acutely aware of what is happening in some other part of the world, we are possibly working with someone there. A call to create a shared document, video or Prezi can originate anywhere and find collaborators and contributors all over the world.


Video source

The video above is oDesk’s vision of the Future of Work but you already see some of it happening today. We are doing this with various technologies and over a distance instead of being face-to-face and over a handshake. This in turn creates problems and opportunities. But these problems and opportunities are not what schools prepare students for.

Yes, there is talk of revision, reform or evolution in schooling. But there is little action. Compared to the rest of the world, schools are used to life in slow motion. Its returns are not immediate and its primary clients (the students) influenced by so many other factors that one cannot fully attribute success or failure just to schooling. If education has not changed much since the 19th century, what is its hurry for the 21st?

Fortunately, some educators on the ground sense the need for change and do not wait for administrators and policymakers to make up their minds (see Will Richardson’s recent entry on this). I am particularly heartened by Richard Byrne’s blog entry and I hope that more teachers think and act this way. It is part of the culture and expectation of the 21st century to believe and behave as such. If we put our children and our students first, we will figure out what we must do, with or without help from the higher ups.

Andrew Churches suggests some skills that a 21st century educator needs to survive. The list is a good start point but it probably isn’t a surprise to anyone actively sensing our environment. Most employers nowadays might require the same skills of their workers.

What strikes me about the list is its not-quite-21st-century format. In particular, I think that the photos used as examples for the skills pale in comparison to a more current and engaging YouTube video of what education professionals might need to do.


Video source

That said, the list is something that is easier to extract information from. But it is not rich in terms of content and it does not necessarily bring across the values or attitudes required of the educator quite like the video does. The skill sets in conceptualising and creating the video as well as interpreting it are far more valuable now and in the future.

To put it another way, evaluating the list requires traditional and information literacies. Creating and interpreting the video requires those skills as well as digital and media literacies.

Footnote: This entry is not intended to attack Churches or his ideas. They are timely and relevant. This is my way of adding to the emerging pool of knowledge on what we might consider to be 21st century skills.

There has been a small flurry of bloggers writing about 21 century literacies or skills. This is important to me as I am part of a small group of researchers that wants to know if the 1:1 computing scheme in NIE has a role to play in promoting or even enabling these skills or literacies.

Howard Rheingold focused on the values and ethics of 21st century learning. Rheingold wondered “how many of us learn to use digital media and networks effectively, reasonably, credibly, collaboratively, civilly, humanely.”

Stephen Downes ruminated on what I’ll label design literacies. Like most other people wondering out loud what 21st century learning is, I think he has a nebulous group of concepts that will be refined over time. But like some educators, I too am convinved as he is that “education in this new literacy can – and must – replace the naive memory-based retention-based fact-based text-and-test model of education that has dominated for the last century or so.”


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