There has been a really interesting debate raging about 21st Century Skills and content in education. It seems that many in education think 21st Century Skills is counter to learning content. You can read about their views here:
It is an interesting debate. Both sides make good points, but I find myself stuck in the middle. Why is teaching content counter to the goals of teaching 21st century skills? I for one can not question the need to learn deeply about a topic in order to have relevant arguments. I believe one must understand their topic in order to speak, write, or present on it. But where I believe 21st Century Skills is more than just a fad is in the way in which it shifts our understanding of how we access that content, process that content, and communicate our learning about that content.
There is no denying that content is more readily available today than ever before. However, that content is hiding amid millions of webpages, ads, and other distractions. If we don't teach our students how to effectively sift through the morass of information that bogs so many of us down, we will instead limit our students to either ignore the hordes of valuable information online or give equal value to all the content online. Handing kids a textbook and asking them to ignore the topical, thoughtful information that is available 24/7 is like teaching kids how to write essays on slate boards. It doesn't prepare them for the world they are already participating in.
The challenge we have as teachers is we are being asked to use tools that are essential to our students future, yet somewhat foreign to many of us. In addition, we are struggling to find the time to explore these tools to create meaningful opportunities for our students to learn how to use them. At the same time, we are feeling a great deal of pressure to get up to speed quickly. We don't want to feel responsible for ill-preparing our students.
One thing is for sure, content alone will not prepare our students for a world in which technology is changing the way we access information, connect with others socially and professionally, and organize our lives. On the other hand, technology skills alone will not prepare our students to make deep connections, solve meaningful problems, or communicate in significant ways.
We need both.
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