21st Century Skills

  • What are 21st Century skills and why should we teach them?
  • Are you teaching 21st Century Skills in a 21st Century context?
  • Do you provide your students with authentic opportunities to become critical digital citizens?
  • Are you preparing your students for a world beyond school?

21st Century skills are a combination of hard (e.g. critical thinking) and soft (e.g. creativity) skills that enable students to be active participants in a global workplace. 21st Century skills have become an education 'buzz word' that can be found in curriculum documents, educational policy, research papers and on countless websites. But, what are 21st Century skills?

The International Baccalaureate, Primary Years Programme highlights five key skill areas that are essential for 'any teaching and learning that goes on within the classroom, and in life outside the school' (IBO, 2009; p. 21). They are thinking skills, social skills, communication skills, research skills and self-management skills. Similarly, Wagner (2008) identifies 'seven survival skills' that are essential for students in a constantly changing technological world:
  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination
Howard Gardner also weighs into the debate on 21st Century Skills and in his book, Five Minds for the Future (2006), identifies disciplined, synethezied, creative, respectful and ethical as the minds that need to be cultivated for the future. Additionally, The 21st Century Fluency Project highlights five fluencies in which students need to achieve competency, in order to be successful digital citizens and active participants in a multimedia world.

The 21st Century Skills identified in the models, projects and curriculum documents are all centred around providing children with the necessary skills to become critical consumers of information in an information rich society. Children need to be provided with opportunities to solve real world problems, work collaboratively, identify point-of-view in literature, be innovative and use a variety of ICT tools effectively. The challenge lies in finding ways to effectively meet the needs of the 21st Century student in an already crowded curriculum. Is it realistic to think that educators can provide opportunities to develop these skills? What needs to change with the current system to make this possible? Please add your ideas to the discussion thread on this topic.

How do I Become a 21st Century Educator?

Kym Cofino in her article for The European Council of International Schools identified five steps to becoming a 21st Century Educator:
  1. Join a Social Network
  2. Set up an RSS reader
  3. Attend Amazing Conferences
  4. Become a Blogger (and a Twitterer)
  5. Develop Personal Connections

Becoming a 21st Century Educator is not just about technology. It is about providing students with a valuable range of skills that will enable them to participate in purposeful inquiry and be prepared for a life of learning (IBO, 2009). What are you doing to become a 21st Century Educator? Please add your ideas to the discussion thread on this topic. This is an opportunity to share ideas and develop connections that could support teaching and learning in your classroom.

Supporting the 21st Century Educator:

Apps for K-12: Stay Ahead of the Learning Curve
Tools for the 21st Century Teacher
Web 2.0 / 21st Century Tools
Learning for the 21st Century
Glog: 21st Century Knowledge and Skills in Educational Preparation.


International Baccalaureate. (2009). Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education. IBO, United Kingdom.
Gardner, G. (2006). Five Minds for the Future. Harvard Business School Press, Harvard.
Wagner, T. (2008). The Global Achievement Gap. Basic Books, New York.