Beyond 21st Century Skills

You can’t have a conversation these days about education without encountering some buzz about 21st Century Skills. It girds any discussion about technology, graduation, career planning and teacher training and educational design.

In a nutshell 21CS focus on Information and Media Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking, Collaboration and Technology Skills (as profiled at ).

While the 21CS framework-parade is reasonably benign, I hardly think it merits the kind of near-religious beatification it is receiving from educators and administrators.

To my perception, the 21CS framework as commonly conceived isn’t nearly as compelling as it might be; rather, I think it remains a gussied-up container for more schooling, still bound to the unspoken notions that children and youth don’t already have very adequate competence in these skills or that they won’t learn unless we (educators) teach them. It remains patriarchal and colonizing in character.

To paraphrase comments I posted on another blog extolling the virtues of 21CS, I think the framework would greatly benefit by educators

– honouring their learners’ natural (multiple) intelligences and encouraging their natural learning proclivities, reflecting the power of “enthusiasm-based learning”, and

– infusing any approach to dealing with learners and their families with the most recent insights from Neurobiology, Positive Psychology, Holistic Learning and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

I think these points help identify a suite of learning strategies which are hallmarks of a new learning paradigm that engage reasonably well with emerging technologies but also reach beyond the seduction of the latest staff room chatter about 21CS.

– Michael Maser


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