Issue 81 | July 22, 2015 | 21st Century Skills


Maureen Martin, our advisor located in Maine, has prepared information on a growing trend in American high school education that may affect your planning for a course of study that will prepare a student for adulthood.  When your child emerges from high school, he / she will join forces either in college or the workforce with other post-graduates who have been prepared in a specific way.  How well will your student be prepared to compete?  Be informed.


We are interested in the resources and opportunities for home schoolers that you find available in your area.  Some of the programs you know about would be worth telling about and we would be happy to feature them in our newsletter in order to trigger ideas among the readers.   Other opportunities are available to others outside your area.   Let us know.
We will be building a database of the resources, programs and ideas that we can share with our families, people like you.   Send information to your advisor who can direct it to those who can get the word out, or store it for future reference.

Maureen Marchetti-Martin, M.A.

Homeschooling parents may feel left out of the loop when they hear educators discussing the importance of teaching 21st century skills to 21st century students. What are 21st century skills and literacies? Even if parents choose not to incorporate some of these skills in their student's course of study, it would be beneficial for them to understand what these skills are, since these forces are helping to shape the educational and workplace future.  I would like to briefly share some of the key skills that educators reference.
Although there are a number of "frameworks" for 21st Century Skills, most of them incorporate the following competencies, in some form or other.   The Partnership Framework incorporates the following:

Core subjects- These subjects have been defined by the Elementary and Secondary School Act of 1965. The core subjects are Language Arts (English and reading), math, science, foreign languages, civics, government, economics, arts, history, and geography.  Individual states may alter these somewhat in their own laws and policies, but usually include these basics.

21st Century content- This area is where new and innovative content is emerging.  They are considered critical to future success in communities and the workplace.  These include, "Global awareness, financial, economic, business, entrepreneurial literacy, civic literacy, and health and wellness awareness." (21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press, 2010. Page 57)

Critical Thinking Skills- Students need to know how to continue to learn, how to access needed information, how to evaluate the information, and how to use that information. This is critical knowledge in any age, but also stressed in 21st Century Skills.

Digital Age Literacy- The more technologically proficient a student is, the more useful their skills will be in the future workplace.  Knowing how to access and use technology to achieve any and all of the above content and skills will serve them well in 21st Century job markets.  ICT (Information and Communications Technology) proficiency is considered a key goal for students.  This includes understanding technology systems and being able to use them, effectively selecting applications to use in different situations, and troubleshooting these systems and applications.

Other frameworks include skills like inventive thinking (being able to adapt and create new ways to use information), mastering group communication skills (working effectively on a team, collaborating with others- even those in other countries- through technology), and being highly productive, which incorporates time management, ability to prioritize, and using current technology to manage these skills.

So most models and frameworks for 21st Century Skills emphasize becoming proficient in current technology and collaboration with others.  Navigating the World Wide Web safely, legally, responsibly, and efficiently is an important goal. In summary, being able to problem solve, communicate effectively, collaborate and work with others, and know how to research and use technology are all considered key skills in the future.

When my middle son was taking courses at a local college, he did a tremendous amount of group work in his classes.  I did not understand the rationale behind all the group work, and wondered why this was such an emphasis. I understand now.  The current thought is that it will not be unusual for people in the workplace in the future to routinely collaborate with others, in person or through technology, from all over the world.  Knowing how group dynamics work and understanding how to effectively problem- solve in groups is considered critical in the future job market.  This is taking place today in the global marketplace, so for students to be competitive, they should look for opportunities develop these skills as well.

Homeschooling parents may feel overwhelmed, wondering how to incorporate some of these new skills into their curriculum.  I would suggest that you look for local opportunities for your students to participate in group work, either formally or informally.  This can be through church groups, community service projects, co-op classes, or structured classes offered through local school systems (adult ed offers classes on a wide range of subjects that might interest students). Some libraries offer reading/discussion groups for teens. Local tech centers usually offer courses on digital age technology, often from intro courses, to multi-credit year-long studies in different tech fields.  Online high schools and colleges offer online courses in many different fields.  The more experience students have with ITC, the better able they will be able to navigate the future marketplace.
If you would like to see an example of a school that is a pilot site and focuses entirely on 21st Century Skills, check out New Line Learning Academy in England.  Click on their curriculum link to see what this innovative school sees as the curriculum for the future. In place of traditional classrooms, they have a learning plaza that can hold up to 120 students, with enough technology stations for each student.  This plaza can be altered in size, and allows both personalized learning and group activities.  Their motto? "Tomorrow's future today."

If you would like more information on the skills of the future, you may begin here:

The book that I used for the information in this article is 21st Century Skills- Rethinking How Students Learn 

If parents have other ideas of how to incorporate some of these skills in their course of study, we would love to hear from them!