Teaching 21st Century Skills
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Why do we teach? Most of us teach because we love children and we who teach secondary subjects, love our subject areas as well. Sometimes what gets lost is what we want as an end result for our students. What we should all keep in the back of our heads, no matter what we’re teaching, is this question: Are we preparing our students to meet the challenges of their future careers—careers that are evolving and requiring more and more technological skills?

Now I’m not saying to dump Shakespeare or stop studying the causes of World War I, for example. What I am saying is that whatever we teach should involve 21st century skills: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, media literacy, information literacy, and communication skills. And, technology is the vehicle to implement these skills in many cases.

Consider this scenario. You are teaching Romeo and Juliet and have just finished reading the first scene with students. You’ve even had students reading different parts to get them involved. You know you need to teach the first scene this way because you want students to get used to the language and you need to be with them to help them along the way. But, do you really need to teach the rest of the play this way? Consider grouping students and telling them each group is going to be updating a scene and their only tool will be their cell phone (not my idea, by the way). Students can read the play on their cell phones at this address and you could provide them with a model at this address. Students would need to analyze the text to understand it and put it together in a more updated way (critical thinking). They would be working with other students (collaboration). They would be using their cell phones to read and discuss ideas (information literacy, media literacy, and communication skills). And, they could use any number of online digital tools to create a new version of their assigned scene (creativity). Are you with me?

All that having been said, let’s close this loop. Teaching students in the 21st century is about teaching with the end in mind. It’s about remembering that we want our students to be capable of securing and thriving in future careers. It’s about interactivity. It’s about relinquishing our control as teachers. It’s about being the knowledgeable coach. Let’s remember to be “the guide on the side, and not the sage on the stage.” Let’s do all this with technology that’s free and just a click away.