MET:21st Century Learning Skills

From UBC Wiki

21st Century Learning Skills evolved out of the development of the 21st Century Learning Initiative was established in 1995 by a group of English and American businessmen along with several organizations while researching learning and learning processes[1].

The initiative suggests that it is critical for today's students to develop the skills to compete academically on a global level, to actively participate as citizens within their own communities, and to be effective in their workplace. 21st Century skills for learning were established as "the use of educational technologies to apply knowledge to new situations, analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions" [2].


The Fourth "R": Readiness

Education in the 21st Century is not moving away from the traditional "3 R's", reading, writing, and arithmetic, but moving deeper into the conceptual understanding of how they be applied to problem solving, new situations, and to find information. The 3 R's still form the base for finding success in both the workplace and in life, but as our world becomes increasingly more digitally-connected it is necessary to add a fourth R: Readiness. "Readiness" in the 21st century is about helping students be able to take what they know and apply it to new situations and problems [3].


21st Century learning skills are actually an extension of traditional educational skills that have been taught in school since the turn of the previous century. The key difference is that we now have a new set of tools to apply to the challenges of learning. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills Framework groups these skills into three major categories:

Learning and Innovation Skills: creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration Information, Media,

Technology Skills: effectively using, managing, and evaluating information from digital technology and communication tools

Life and Career Skills: flexibility and adaptability, self-direction, teamwork, appreciation of diversity, accountability, and leadership. [4]

Ken Kay, president of P21 defines the four main skills for learning and innovation as the 4 C's: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, and states that by fusing the 3 R's with the 4 C's teachers can effictively prepare students to be innovative and competitive in today's global economy. March 22, 2010 in the video [5]


Learning and Innovation

Creativity and innovation allow the generation of ideas and concepts, to perceive information differently from others, and to have the ability to approach issues from a different perspective than others. Thinking creatively involves using techniques such as brainstorming, collaboration, and communicating effectively with others . Expanding on these ideas by elaborating, refining, analyzing, and evaluating will maximize and improve the creative effort.

The ability to think critically involves the ability to reason effectively, including the use of inductive and deductive reasoning as it is appropriate to the situation. Problem solving skills involve the ability to effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, alternative points of view, and to make connections between information and arguments. Critically reflecting on personal learning and asking significant questions leads to additional information and better solutions [6].

Relevent Technology

  • Graphic organizers: for brainstorming and organizing ideas
  • Google Docs and Moodle: to collaborate with others in a virtual group
  • Skype: To communicate with others visually and verbally
  • Prezi and MS Powerpoint: to creatively present ideas and projects

Life and Career

These skills require the ability to adapt to change in daily responsibilities and schedules, and to be flexible by incorporating feedback from others, dealing positively with praise, and accepting criticism. Initiative and self direction are reflected in the ability to set appropriate long and short term goals, and managing both personal and workplace time effectively. Demonstrating initiative to advance personal learning and skill level reflects independent and self-directed learning.

Our increasingly connected global society has made it necessary to include skills in ethics, civic responsibility, and cross-cultural awareness. Working and collaborating in culturally diverse groups requires common ethics about how to treat others, our environment, and how our society functions. It is especially important to respect cultural differences and respond open-mindedly to different ideas and values in order to create new ideas and understanding. [7]

Relevent Technology

  • Google Calendar: to schedule and keep track of daily/weekly responsibilities
  • MS One Note: for journaling, note-taking, and organization

The interconnectedness of the 4Cs Skills

The 4Cs of 21st Century Learning are identified as Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication. A thoughtful analysis of these skills reveals that they are both inseparably interconnected and complementary. 21centuryheader.png [8]

Critical Thinking:

Critical Thinking has been widely defined by its subcategories of thinking: reasoning, analyzing, evaluating, problem solving and decision making. It is each of these, but also the interconnectedness of these different kinds of thinking skills. The Critical Thinking Community, on its website, offers a lengthy and comprehensive definition. Critical thinking includes the ability to analyze and for judgements based on criteria and standards, and based on research or a body of theoretical knowledge. Critical thinking questions information, inferences, assumptions, and points of view. It is a process of thinking which attempts to determine the true worth, merit or value, and which articulates clearly formed questions. The link to communication is easy to see here, as the ability to clearly communicate is necessary to articulate one’s thinking. The Critical thinking community also emphasize that an important aspect of critical thinking is overcoming egocentrisim and sociocentrism. This links to collaboration, where the ability to work with and see value in the other, and the other points of view, other frameworks is necessary for successful, fruitful collaboration. [9]

The increasing importance of critical thinking skills in recent years has been connected to career success. This has had an impact also on how schools and traditional education has addressed thinking skills. A long term goal is that schools should teach this real life goal of competent critical thinking in order for people to be successful in a future career. Therefore schools are key participants in the formation of citizens who are critical thinkers, who in turn, enhance society due to their contributions in the economic, social, civic, and cultural issues that faces any society. Problem solving and critical thinking allow our citizens to review and evaluate a variety of problems (for example, international human rights, or economic issues) with a critical eye that analyzes, evaluates, judges and makes decisions independently. The seeds of critical thinking are planted with students at school where they learn how to solve problems with innovative and conventional strategies that were previously unfamiliar to the students.[10]


Communication is defined as the clear expression of ideas, and encompasses written, spoken, and visual communication. To communicate clearly is to be able to articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts. It is not only the ability to express oneself, but is the ability to listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions.

communication2.jpg [11]

Communication links to creativity, where an ability to successfully manipulate language, gesture, (theatre), and images (fine arts, technology, design) is necessary for clear, effective communication. There are several layers which impact on communication: a cultural layer where those with knowledge of and competence in multiple languages and cultural awareness and sensitivity have greater chance of more successful communication with a much wider audience. There is the technological layer, where IT competence and facility with web tools and social media, for example, enhance a person’s ability to communicate. The ability to use multiple media and technologies, and to know how to assess the impact and the effectiveness of these is also a key factor in skillful communication. The most effective communication with people is creative communication. Having sharp critical thinking skills enhances one’s ability to communicate effectively in diverse environments.

Students are constantly exposed to an immense amount of information that needs to be verified and communicated through the right channels to the right people. Today, technology and digital media make communication much easier and more effective in terms of viewers and conventional exposure. However, in order to create a strong communication path, students need to master the communication skills of speaking, writing and viewing. In addition, communication is no longer only a local matter; it is an international skill that students need to be ready to use effectively. The new world economy is dependent on communication and people who are adept communicators.

Students or citizens who strongly communicate their ideas and who think about the issues that matter locally and internationally (as learned through access to media and technology) using the communication skills are people who understand problem solving as an issue of the group not just the individual (critical thinking). Communicating one’s thoughts, ideas, opinions and judgments is what facilitates solving problems. In addition, communication is a collaboration skill: in order to succeed in reaching the maximum audience one must collaborate with others locally and internationally. [12]


Collaboration can be defined in many ways, but P21 defines collaboration as the ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams. A person who can collaborate successfully is one who can exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal. This person can assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member. Collaboration can happen with face to face meetings where people share the same physical workspace to accomplish a task. It can be facilitated by IT which helps to overcome the challenges of working with people around the world (distance & time changes). Creative use of communication tools, and effective communication is critical when people are not physically working together. Strong critical thinking are necessary for the provocative, challenging conversations and questioning that occurs when people are creatively tackling an issue or problem. [13]


Creativity has often been the more difficult skill to define, and to assess, as traditionally it has been linked to ability in fine arts, particularly painting or drawing. More recently, creativity is defined as the ability to find effective, original solutions to problems and issues that people and societies face. It is an attitude of openness which sees new possibilities, which entertains how to use familiar objects, tools or systems in new, innovative ways. Jane Piirto highlights nurturing five personal attitudes which in turn foster creativity in individuals: a) self-discipline, b) openness to experience, c) risk taking, d) tolerance for ambiguity, e) group trust.

The creative person thinks open mindedly, and sees the value added of alternative systems of thought. Here there is a strong cross cultural connection, which links to effective collaboration and communication. [14]

creativity.jpg [15]

The 4cs, while separately are very important discrete skills, they are inseparably linked, and each skill becomes more effectively used when enhanced by the other three

It should be noted that the “21st century skills” concept encompasses a wide-ranging and amorphous body of knowledge and skills that is not easy to define and that has not been officially codified or categorized. While the term is widely used in education, it is not always defined consistently, which can lead to confusion and divergent interpretations. In addition, a number of related terms—including applied skills, cross-curricular skills, cross-disciplinary skills, interdisciplinary skills,transferable skills, transversal skills, noncognitive skills, and soft skills, among others—are also widely used in reference to the general forms of knowledge and skill commonly associated with 21st century skills. While these different terms may not be strictly synonymous, and they may have divergent or specialized meanings in certain technical contexts, these diverse sets of skills are being addressed in this one entry for the purposes of practicality and usefulness. [16]

Stop Motion Animation by Ghassan Barhoumeh


Stop Motion Animation


Stop Motion Animation by Kenny Jamieson

Information Media and Technology

These skills reflect the ability to use technology to expand learning and to improve productivity. Information skills are the ability to access information efficiently and effectively , and to evaluate that information critically. Using information appropriately involves managing content from a variety of sources, and understanding legal and ethical issues when accessing information.

Media skills require an understanding of the purposes for different types of media, how to interpret the values and points of view they hold , and to recognize the influence media has on its audience. Using media products to create tools for learning, understanding, and communicating requires understanding how and what media creation tools will do the necessary job most effectively[17].


Member Organizations:

  • American Association of School Librarians
  • Adobe Systems
  • Apple Inc.
  • Blackboard Incorporated
  • Cable in the Classroom
  • Cengage Learning
  • Cisco Systems
  • Crayola
  • Dell
  • Education Networks of America
  • ETS
  • EF Education
  • GlobalScholar
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Intel® Corporation
  • JA Worldwide
  • KnowledgeWorks Foundation
  • Learning Point Associates
  • LEGO Group
  • McGraw-Hill
  • Measured Progress
  • MHz Networks
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • National Academy Foundation
  • National Education Association
  • netTrekker
  • Oracle Education Foundation
  • Pearson
  • PMI Educational Foundation
  • Verizon
  • Walt Disney Company

See Also

  • Yik Wah Penner's Stop Motion on 21st Century Learning skills []
  • The 21st Century Learning Initiative 2010 [2]
  • 21st Century Learning, 2010 [3]
  • Pearson Canada [4]
  • The Partnership for 21 Century Skills[5]
  • The Partnership for 21 Century Skills [6]
  • The Partnership for 21 Century Skills, [7]
  • Premier's Technology Council, A Vision for 21st Century Education,2010 [8]


The 21st Century Learning Initiative 2010[1] 21st Century Learning,[2] Pearson Canada,[3] The Partnership for 21 Century Skills,[4] The Partnership for 21 Century Skills, [5] The Partnership for 21 Century Skills,[6] Premier's Technology Council, A Vision for 21st Century Education, [7] The Partnership for 21 Century Skills,[8]

  1. [9]
  2. [10], 2010
  3. [11]
  4. [12]
  5. [13], March 2010
  6. [14]
  7. [15], December 2010
  8. [16]