One of the main roles of schools is to teach their students how to become future active citizens. The young generation that we will teach in our future classrooms will represent the future wok force and they should learn information that is relevant to what is out there in the real world. The article “What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or 21st-century skills’?” states, “virtually all of the industrialized countries the USA is competing with are pursuing both content and skills (Toppo, 2009). This is a true statement because students who graduate from high school should not only have an amply content knowledge but also be familiar with 21st-century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and be technology proficient.

In addition the article ‘What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or 21st-century skills’? raises the following question, “the conflict is about what should happen in a school day: Do kids learn to think by reading great literature, doing difficult math and learning history, philosophy and science? Or can they tackle those subjects on their own if schools simply teach them to problem-solve, communicate, use technology and think creatively? (Toppo, 2009).  Some students will be able to undertake the learning of these content knowledge subjects on their own if they learn 21st-century skills, however other students might struggle and give up.  Each student learns and acquires knowledge differently and deciding to teach only 21st-century skills is not going to benefit all of the students because one size does not fit all.  Both content knowledge and 21st-century skills are very important concepts to teach our students. I know that there is not enough time or days in a school year to teach the students all of the knowledge and skills they need to know before graduation. I understand why this topic (to focus more on core knowledge or 21st-century skills) is an on-going debate because one concept is not more essential  than the other one.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills website explains that their mission is to incorporate specific content area knowledge such as English, mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics, economics, arts, history and geography and integrate critical thinking and problem solving skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation. Student will benefit greatly if they can learn content knowledge while also learning new 21st-century skills.  In addition, teaching in the 21st –century has to be student-centered and not direct-instruction.

Student-centered classrooms motivate students because students are working on hands on activities and are usually linking their learning to real world applications. Our textbook Using Inquiry in the Classroom explains, “without student motivation, engagement will not happen and deep inquiry will not take place” (Coffman, 2013, p.2).

cybrarian77, bored students, http://www.flickr.com/photos/cybrarian77/6284697172/lightbox/

Students cannot longer seat on their desks for hours during a school day while their teachers are lecturing them in front of the classroom. Students need to know that what they are learning is applicable outside the four walls of their classroom. For example, most of the core knowledge that students memorize before an exam is usually forgotten in a day or two. I know this from experience because in high school I would memorize information or vocabulary words before and exam but a few days later I was not able to recall any of the information.  Allowing the students to learn and apply knowledge in a hands on activity is much more constructive. Creating a blog in any content area is a great hands on activity. In my opinion letting the students write down their thoughts, opinions, answers in a public blog will encourage them to improve their writing skills and help them organize their ideas better. Our textbook Web 2.0 How-To For Educators mentions, “with blogs, students write on topics-personal or assigned-with the understanding that a potential audience of at least classmates and parents, and possible people from anywhere can read it. [Student]  knowledge of an authentic audience means that students will work on their writing [and process their ideas] more than when the teacher is the only reader” (Solomon & Schrum, 2010, p. 20). This also a great way for students to learn how to collaborate with one another, “students can post ideas and get feedback from other with whom they are working” (Solomon & Schrum, 2010, p. 5).

As teachers we need to learn how to incorporate 21st-centry skills into our content knowledge lesson plans. We should also link each lesson plan to real world applications and inform our students that what they are learning will be beneficial to them in the long run.

 

References:

Coffman. T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: Developing creative thinkers and  information literate students. (2nd Ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Partnership for 21st century skills . (2011). http://www.p21.org/about-us

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0: How to for educators. International Society for Technology in Education

Toppo, G. (2009, March 5). What to learn: ‘Core knowledge’ or ’21st century skills’?.  USA today. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core- knowledge_N.htm