After the National Education Association (NEA) established the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) in 2002, they worked to develop the “Framework for 21st Century Learning.” In this framework, 18 skills were highlighted as essential themes for learning in the 21st century. Though it was quickly evident that 18 skills didn’t provide enough of a focus, it was then, in 2004 that the “Four Cs” were born: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and Innovation.
As we know, a lot has changed in the education world since 2004. One of the biggest changes is our dependence on devices in and out of the classroom. The iPhone was introduced in 2007 and iPad in 2010. And while these devices were only released less than ten years ago, most would find it hard to remember life without them. Especially those in the K-12 classroom. While the “Four Cs” haven’t changed since 2004, their meanings and importance have evolved to reflect the ever-changing education environment.
Today, we are going to dive into how each C has evolved with digital learning, and introduce our own C that we believe will connect the original four together in a way that will push this framework into the future.
1. Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking is synonymous to thinking well. It is vital to introduce exercises and assessments to develop this skill in K-12 for success in higher education, and future careers. Whether it be sounding out words to write a complete sentence or interpreting the same piece of music, critical thinking and problem solving skills seep across several subjects to impact a student’s ability to concentrate, process, and analyze.
— Pam Evans (@pevans89) February 24, 2016
In a digital classroom, access to the internet means access to an infinite amount of resources with contrasting perspectives. To interpret all of these resources and apply them to homework, projects, or assignments will build essential real-world skills. Working to ensure every K-12 student has the opportunity to develop this invaluable skill is an investment in their future.
Communication is arguably one of the most important skills for a student. In 2014 it was projected that about 81% of jobs were service jobs founded in communication. Between group projects, global teams, and remote employees, it seems as if communication is more important today than in the beginning of the 21st century.
For the K-12 classroom, there have been many remedies for closing the gap between administrators, teachers, parents, and students. But no solution has been as successful as the implementation of a Learning Management System (LMS).
The official definition of LMS is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of electronic education technology courses or training programs. But to us, it is a Study Center. A place where every person dedicated to learning can:
- Assess a student’s progress on class materials (Identifies students who are falling behind in specific areas).
- Send in-system messages (A student’s missing homework or a teacher’s upcoming professional development day).
- Access apps for assisted learning (A student could play back their upcoming speech and hear potential mistakes).
Communication can be hard to differentiate from the other Cs, but it comes down to being able to articulate a thought or idea in a concise manner.
Collaboration is most closely related to communication. Group projects and global teams can only be successful with proper communication AND collaboration skills.
Collaboration starts at the top of the school to set a good example for students. This means integrating technology into the classroom to allow voices and ideas from all over the world to collaborate and help teach. Yes, making this change at a school can be a huge undertaking. This is where collaborating resources are extremely helpful.
Most schools may start by asking technology-savvy teachers train others, but sometimes this is not enough. With professional development programs (similar to i21 zone), you can have coaches and teachers collaborate to create models for better and more effective use of technology in the classroom. Collaborating and communicating this way throughout a school, or even district, can level any discrepancies and strengthens school culture as a whole.
Isn’t that a great example to set for your students, and help their future success at the same time?
4. Creativity and Innovation
Creativity and innovation are more prevalent than ever in 2016. In just 2014 to 2015, the increase in the Startup Activity Index was the largest year-over-year increase over the past two decades! Proving that the rate of innovative and creative entrepreneurs continues to grow thanks to the support of schools and mentors.
— corderj (@corderj) January 29, 2016
Giving students access to innovative technologies is one of the biggest supportive systems a school can offer. This includes making the right choice in a Student Information System (SIS). Choosing a sophisticated SIS will allow schools to streamline and simplify administrative tasks, integrate with learning management systems, and other student data to enhance the communication and collaboration between administrators, teachers, and parents.
When your SIS stays current with today’s innovative and creative technologies, your school will better provide the resources students need to succeed.
We’ve made it to the final C: Connections! This fifth C is a combination of all “Four Cs” for successful 21st century education. The 21st century requires we change devices from being screen barriers and making them effective resources. It can start by initiating a dialogue with students to understand what they need to master a skill.
Sometimes students will not respond well to this change. And while most poor results (seen in test grades, class behavior, etc.) usually warrant a consequence, we think they should initiate a conversation. A conversation to connect with your student and learn what led to this result to drive a positive future result. Positive behavior reinforcement programs are helpful solutions. They add incentives to good behavior, and add a respectful layer to a teacher and student relationship.
Instituting positive behavior reinforcement programs at your school will not only help you connect with your students, but positively effects grades, attendance, and lowers disciplinary issues. Don’t believe us? Just read this.
It will be overwhelming to try and look at each C and fit many subjects under each one without topics overlapping. We suggest that when covering a certain standard or topic at your school to attempt to bring an element from each C throughout the year to give your students the best chance at success in their future endeavors. But if you are still overwhelmed, we are always here to help.