One thing that is constant in this world is that it is always changing. Changes are propelled by the exchange of ideas, politics, and economy, among other things. Nowadays though, these changes have been happening at an ever-accelerating pace. This acceleration is largely due to the immense technological progress we are witnessing, progress that leaves some people wide-eyed with enthusiasm, yet others with a feeling of uncertainty or even fear.
It is understandable. Ten years ago, the average person hadn’t heard of people making money off of YouTube or robots doing surgery, nor had they dreamed of a future where 3-year-olds could use the family tablet as easily as their parents. Tablets did not even exist! What will our lives look like ten years from now? How about fifteen years from now, when the aforementioned three-year-olds are going to just have graduated from school and will be looking for a job? How many jobs will have been forever changed by technology and what kinds of jobs will be available to today’s toddlers? Which will have disappeared and which new ones will have been created? How can we, who work in education, keep up?
As many traditional jobs are becoming more and more automatized and new jobs are born seemingly out of the sheer creativity and inventiveness of humankind and emerging technologies, schools are faced with new challenges: what knowledge do they need to provide students with, so that these future adults are fully equipped to deal with future demands?
The answer is not as complicated as one might think. Even if people are not always in agreement as to exactly what needs to be taught, they all agree that educational needs are changing. It’s this fluidity schools will have to address, not necessarily the learning content itself.
The 4C’s of Education
The 4C’s of 21st-century skills are collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication. These skills are arguably what students will need to have in order to be able to adapt to this ever-changing society.
Human societies have always depended on collaboration in order to work. Groups that could not collaborate soon fell apart or were defeated by groups with stronger cohesion.
Good communication was a key to making things work and exchanging ideas.
Creativity led to innovation and progress.
Critical thinking has always been needed to avoid pitfalls and is becoming increasingly more important in the Internet era. Today it is harder than ever to avoid those pitfalls, because of evolving technologies that make it easy to manipulate data, to know what is true or not.
These skills have been cultivated in classrooms around the world for many years. Students have worked together on projects, honing their collaboration and communication skills. Critical thinking has been encouraged when analyzing texts such as news items and history books. Creativity has been finding an outlet through art classes, dance lessons, and band practice.
So why is this suddenly a big deal?
The difference between today’s society and how things were 50 or even 10 years ago is that we now live in a world where ideas and goods are exchanged globally in unforeseen ways. This presents us with both amazing opportunities and disturbing prospects.
For example, people living in different parts of the world work together to produce art or further scientific knowledge. Knowledge is available at the click of a button, and it has never been easier to learn more about the world’s different cultures.
Communication is both readily available and faster, breaking down the distance barriers between countries.
Sharing your experiences with others - an important human social interaction since we gathered around the fire to tell tales - is made effortless with the help of social media.
On the other hand, the permanency of words and pictures uploaded on the Internet and the speed by which they spread has no precedent.
Privacy concerns compete with an ever-increasing desire to share personal things voluntarily.
Someone who doesn’t have access to a computer at home soon faces difficulties paying his or her bills, finding information, staying involved in their friends’ and family’s lives. This is most evident in the way older generations struggle to keep up with the new way of doing things, but it is also an economic matter that creates inequalities in society, dividing people in those that can afford technology and those who cannot.
These are just some of the scenarios happening at the moment that seemed impossible only a few years ago. We can only guess, basing our predictions on current trends, what the world will look like 15 years from now when today’s 3-year-olds become adults. But we don’t really know.
One thing is for sure, though. People who cannot handle these changing demands and uncertainty might soon find themselves lagging behind.
So much of our lives is affected by technology nowadays that one can no longer refuse to deal with it. The ones that cannot keep up will not only not be able to partake of the opportunities technology offers, they will also be unable to function in a way that is equal to their more technologically-literate peers. They will have access to less information, less knowledge, less opportunity to connect with others.
This will create a digital exclusion that risks splitting up society in a new kind of class system, a division between the haves and have- nots: the technologically savvy and the technological pariahs.
Digital competence is, therefore, a matter of equal rights, citizenship, and democracy.
Whose responsibility is it anyway?
Considering how important keeping oneself up to date with digital technology is, think about this: who will teach today’s children how to use digital tools if these children have no access to them at home, or if their parents are not knowledgeable enough themselves to teach them?
As it is an equality issue, the responsibility falls on society’s and the educational system’s shoulders. Schools can be a catalyst for democracy, by giving all children equal access to digital tools and the knowledge on how to use them. Just as children need to learn how to read and write, they will need to learn not only how to use digital tools but what to use them for. Schools will need to equip them with knowledge on how to adapt, be safe and think globally.
This is where 21st-century skills come in, promoting flexibility, adaptability and global awareness.
Here are some tips on how to work in today’s classroom in order to prepare your students for tomorrow’s demands:
- Let your students work together in groups, but make sure you try different constellations. Different groups have different dynamics and bring out different sides in students, helping them develop a variety of skills and increasing their flexibility. A student that is quiet in one group might become the leader of another one. Keep in mind that introverts have different needs and skill sets than extroverts, so make sure everyone gets a chance to reflect and that everyone gets a chance to talk. Let your students use the digital tools in your classroom to present their work.
- Use manipulated videos you can find on the Internet to discuss issues of credibility. Let students create their own “fake” content so that they see how easy it is to falsify images and videos with the help of technology. Discuss the ethical implications of putting out such material on the Internet, and how even manipulated data that was uploaded as a joke can be taken seriously by the public. Use social media to create discussions around how these sources can have an effect on national and international politics.
- Encourage students to ask questions and think outside the box. Give them challenges that don’t necessarily have a solution. Show them that several solutions can be just as valid.
- Let your students use the digital tools in your classroom to create videos, images, presentations or art. Let them create their own lessons and teach other students. Have students research a certain subject, such as a piece of music, and then create and perform their own, noting how different students approach the subject from different directions. Use the Internet to let students across the globe work together to write and perform music, film or any other sort of art.
- Let your students use digital tools such as email or video conferencing to talk to other students around the world. Discuss how can we surpass cultural differences in the written word. Get your students to write a class blog or newsletter. Discuss different ways of communicating, that is oral, body language, or both, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
By using simple teaching methods and digital tools such as those, you will be helping your students develop the 4C’s of 21st-century skills: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication, giving them a greater chance to meet the demands technological progress places on them.
If you're a teacher willing to help students develop their 21-st century skills in the most fun way possible, get the Snowflake MultiTeach 60-days FREE trial by clicking the link below: