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So just what is a 21st Century Skill?

We hear a lot about 21st Century Skills lately; I'm certainly guilty of using the phrase. There's a whole website devoted to building them (actually, there are thousands, but this one has the domain name www.
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Written by Christopher Dawson on

We hear a lot about 21st Century Skills lately; I'm certainly guilty of using the phrase. There's a whole website devoted to building them (actually, there are thousands, but this one has the domain name www.21stcenturyskills.org). We also know that a lot of our kids don't have them and a lot of their international counterparts are gaining them.

So what are they? My superintendent sent me a brochure on a state initiative to build 21st Century Skills and Classrooms. It was pretty vague, but I definitely got the impression I should be doing something.

Here's my take. 21st Century Skills (I'm officially coining the acronym 21CS) are the broad set of tools, knowledge, and capabilities that allow students to step into a technology-driven global economy and be successful. It doesn't mean that every kid needs to learn Ruby on Rails or have 10,000 followers on Twitter.

Rather, 21CS means getting people working together, generally with some technology making it all happen. We don't need to be in the same office, prairie-dogging over our cubicles anymore and we darn-well better have an understanding of Asian culture, global economics, and telecommunications.

Our students need to know what asynchronous communication is and how that affects collaboration. They need to know how to accept and give criticism, communicate clearly and concisely across cultural boundaries, and use a variety of technology interfaces.

21CS is so bloody broad that it's almost meaningless. Yet when a student can turn social media into a business tool and use them to produce a deliverable with contributors in 5 countries, they've certainly put those 21CS into play.

Help us focus in on 21CS. What does it mean to you and how do you incorporate them into your curricula? Talk back below.

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