Dear Commons Community,
Over the past few years, we have increasingly heard the need for educators at all levels to emphasize the need for students to learn 21st century skills. The definition of 21st century skills is a bit complex but generally involves a heavy dose of learning and keeping up with information and communications technologies integrated with the development of critical/analytical thinking and interpersonal skills. For a more thorough examination of a definition, an organization known as the Partnership for 21st Skills (P21) has an extensive website devoted to discussing definition, issues, and implementation strategies. (see: http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/)
However, in a recent article that appeared in Education Week, the entire question of emphasizing 21st century skills came under attack as nothing more than an attempt by technology companies to sell products and “to gain more influence over the classroom”. Here is an excerpt from an article in Education Week stating the criticism:
“after seven relatively quiet years of work, P21 is facing a vocal chorus of detractors of its initiative, primarily from among advocates for a liberal arts and sciences curriculum…
Recently, those critics have leveled a more serious charge at the organization. P21, they allege, is a veiled attempt by technology companies—which make up the bulk of the group’s membership—to gain more influence over the classroom.
“The closer we look, the more P21’s unproven educational program appears to be just another mechanism for selling more stuff to schools,” [says] Lynne Munson, the president and executive director of Common Core, a Washington group that advocates a stronger core curriculum,..”
The entire article can be found at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/12/09/14partnership_ep.h29.html
The issue raised in this article is a good one to ponder because too many times the term “21st century skills” is used as a fait accompli rationale for using technology in our teaching and learning. While I fully support integrating technology in instruction, I do get concerned when colleagues stress too strongly the need to change, transform or revolutionize our pedagogical approaches in the name of teaching 21st century skills as if we would be short-changing our students and hurting their chances to compete in the future for jobs, careers, and professional opportunities.