Why We Need To Refresh Our Ideas On 21st Century Skills: An Expert’s Take

21st century skills - Why We Need To Refresh Our Ideas

Collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. Most 21st century skill frameworks out there focus on these four main skills.

But are they enough in today’s age of accelerated technological innovations?

We spoke with Dr Jon Mason, Associate Professor of Education at Charles Darwin University (e-Learning) to find out why he thinks it’s time to refresh our ideas on 21st century skills.

Moving Beyond The 4 ‘C’s

“I think in teaching and learning, there’s a ‘C’ that we’ve kind of forgotten – ‘C’ for concentration,” said the professor, who teaches digital technology.

“And that’s because of attention spans. I.T. is an interruption technology. Social media is an interruption technology. There’s always an alert on our screen or a handset, and it’s very hard to stay in the zone and in the one conversation without being interrupted.”

He reminds that learning how to think clearly, concentrate and stay on topic is an important foundational skill – as foundational as literacy and numeracy.

The next C is intercultural communication.

“Globalisation is a happening thing,” reiterated Jon, who’s based in Darwin.

He shared how we live more and more in a global environment, where there are more demands for us to be interacting with people of different cultures all the time.

“We’re needing to be sensitive to different protocols of how to communicate and behave. I think intercultural perspectives and learning are more and more important.”

The last C is citizenship.

“If we couple citizenship together with what’s taking place with digital technology, then we’re no longer just talking about digital literacy,” Dr Mason said.

“We’re talking about data literacy, digital downtime, digital health and integrity – and therefore, digital citizenship.”

In fact, he feels that we’re in a new era again with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence services, where we can generate essays without too much effort.

And this has big implications, particularly in the way that we conduct assessments and the way we validate learning.

So, are we all digital citizens?

“Well, if we’re engaging somehow in the digital environment, and we’re engaging with others, not just sort of using the internet for information in a solitary kind of way then yes, I think there’s a citizenship consequence,” he replied.

Principals need to be practitioners

21st century learning

For nearly a decade, the researcher has also been watching the standards developed for educators and principals by the Australia Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) with interest.

One thing he’s noticed is while teachers and graduates go through a teaching course required to have quite well-developed digital literacy skills, those skills are not specified in the Standards for Principals.

“I kind of think that’s an anomaly because yes, principals have to exercise different kinds of leadership, whether it’s operational or relational or strategic. There are variations of leadership and of course, the role of a principal is increasingly complex in this world where there’s so much change and turbulence going on.”

But he stresses, “it’s also important for principals to be across and up to speed with the digital environment as well.

School Leaders Need To Set The Pace

“Principals need to be practitioners who have a reasonable understanding of the environment; the tools within it, what can go wrong, and what are the issues that are arising as a consequence of it,” he explained, especially in a time where digital citizenship and literacy are evolving.

“If we’re thinking about how digital literacy or digital citizenship might evolve, how we’re needing to ensure personal integrity and responsibility when we’re engaging online – all these skills need to be nurtured and looked after in the school environment.”

He adds, “Leaders need to set the pace. They need to be looked up to and they need to be seen as ‘oh, gee, that person knows what he or she is doing, they’re really enacting that.’ That’s the sort of leadership that’s going to be required.”

“And I suspect that standards like the Standard for Principals is going to need to change again and specify those sorts of things.”

So how can educators deepen student’s learning with technology? Read our next article here to learn more.


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Categories Opinion, Technology

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