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20th vs 21st Century Skills

How do 20th century and 21st century skills differ? 

As a student in the 20th century I recall that my education was largely about learning facts and content that would be regurgitated at a later stage to prove that I had learnt something. I vividly remember sitting in many classes simply copying notes from a blackboard. The only way that I could make it interesting was to add colour to my boring exercise book by bullet pointing, underlining and drawing little pictures with my felt tip pens. In English, watching a film of people perform Shakespeare on a dark stage with one stagelight was a huge highlight of my 6th form English class. It was little wonder that I felt I had to provide some sort of entertainment to the class by yelling out ‘Earthquake! Everyone under your desk!’ in the middle of one class.

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Most of my classes, apart from the specialist classes such as music, home economics, and PE, involved a teacher standing at the front transmitting information. I was not a well behaved student in the 3rd and 4th form and I think I am only partly to blame.

As I matured I learned to self manage and respect my fellow students’ learning opportunities. I also learnt that to get the best education possible I would need to respect myself and participate in the lessons I was taught. These are skills that are still relevant today.

Today, as a teacher, my goal is to incorporate the 21st Century skills of collaboration, knowledge construction, problem solving and innovation, digital literacy, self regulation, and communication in my students’ learning experience.

I have done this by utilising Project Based Learning and using a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix, flipping the classroom and co-constructing units of work with my students. As a BYOD school, this has worked mostly well as students are able to construct knowledge easily with on tap internet and presentation tools. My focus has been on being a guide and mentor.

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Being a BYOD school, self regulation and digital literacy has been hugely important to teach and there have been plenty of opportunities to do this. Students do get off task at times doing the wrong thing such as playing games or being on Facebook. Instead of blocking social media our approach has been to use it as a teachable moment and discuss when and where it is appropriate to being playing games and using social media. This is an ongoing thing and we do have consequences for persistent offenders.

Do we need both?

I think that the skills of managing self, relating to others and participating and contributing are skills that are relevant to both centuries. These are skills that are needed to be successful in any part of life so we still need to have them as part of our curriculum.

However, knowledge transmission via the ‘sage on the stage’ is no longer relevant. Students are now able to find most information on the internet and our role as teachers is to guide them in the skills of assessing, synthesising and utilising information.

Unfortunately, our exam system still expects students to regurgitate facts and content –  hopefully we don’t have to wait until the 22nd century for this to change.





2 thoughts on “20th vs 21st Century Skills

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