“Reading, writing, and calculating are small components to being successful in the twenty-first century workforce. However, what about the less tangible skills like thinking critically, embracing curiosity, and being part of a team?”
Living in the moment can be a refreshing way to seize the day. However, how does a child live in the moment and yet be ready for the future workforce? Some may say a traditional path to a career such as a teacher, an engineer, a doctor, a tradesperson, and a lawyer are enough for children in the future. However, most jobs that will be available for children who are now in Kindergarten are currently not even in existence yet. Looking back thirty years ago, few would predict that technology would be an essential component of the workplace or integrated into our daily lives. Careers are continually evolving, and new opportunities arise for future generations. Reading, writing, and calculating are small components to being successful in the twenty-first century workforce. However, what about the less tangible skills like thinking critically, embracing curiosity, and being part of a team? These attributes can propel a child to deeper understanding and success. Parents want to help prepare their child to lead productive and successful lives. Educators plan vigorously to help their students succeed. Educators thirty years ago would never have guessed how computers, the Internet, and mobile devices would come to be an integral part of a person’s life. Now, they can prepare their students to better use such technology. The technology industry has produced new careers requiring new skillsets. Preparing for an unknown job market is a daunting task; yet, parents and educators have helped children be successful in such career fields as technology by building life skills. Tony Wagner, PhD. of Harvard University has conducted massive amounts of education research in the United States. He has called for educational reform as he finds that our school system has been satiated in the nineteenth and twentieth century learning mindset. Dr. Wagner has challenged parents and educators to view a new paradigm in education and learning that will assist children in the twenty-first century. He has identified “7 Survival Skills for the 21st Century” as the cornerstone of the Project Based Learning for the 21st Century (PBL21), which is a unique approach developed by Anne Shaw.
Dr. Wagner interviewed hundreds of CEOs in businesses, educational institutions, and non-profits. Those interviewed were able to provide valuable data in which Dr. Wagner found a common thread in their statements. The “7 Skills Students Will Always Need” were then derived: Curiosity and Imagination; Initiative and Entrepreneurship; Agility and Adaptability; Critical Thinking and Problem Solving; Effective Oral and Written Communication; Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence; and Accessing and Analyzing Information. Parents and educators may not know what the future holds for career opportunities, but a present advantage is knowing what skills students will need once they get there. In 2001 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum started to appear. Judith A. Ramaley, who worked with the National Science Foundation from 2001 to 2004, is often considered as the person who coined the term, STEM. STEM has picked up considerable momentum within the past decade as a response to the twenty-first century workforce.
Educational academies — like American Academy of Strategic Education — have identified that parents and educators must visualize a different paradigm in education and have learned that helping students to be successful in the twenty-first century, requires parents, educators, and students to view a different paradigm in education and learning. That is why American Academy incorporates PBL21 lesson concepts into its program, where students are able to collaborate, problem solve, and articulate their answers. In addition, student-led clubs allow children to develop leadership skills, build confidence, and explore their curiosity. The academy’s built-in STEM lessons give students an opportunity to showcase their problem-solving skills. Traditionally in education, teachers begin with the standards and then develop the lesson. Unfortunately, this places barriers to the “7 Skills Students Will Always Need.” Creating projects that students are engaged with should be the main focus — those that provide rigor, opportunities for collaboration to problem solve, and spark curiosity and creativity should be the main focus. The standards will be naturally built into each lesson. American Academy is one such educational institution that believes in PBL21 and carefully designs its curriculum around project-based learning for real-world applications. The word “standards” refers to the minimum level of acceptability. PBL21 lessons provide a broader array of assessing students and goes beyond the minimum standards by encompassing the real-world skills that students need to be successful.
As a result of project-based lessons, students often learn more, achieve high aptitude levels, score high on standardized tests, and are more prepared for the twenty-first century workforce. In addition, student attendance and motivation to learn gradually increase over time. In order to transition from a focus on improving academic testing scores to a more intuitive holistic approach, parents and educators need to have the big picture in mind. Helping children understand the roles they can assume — such as being engaged thinkers, resilient and resourceful learners, creative problem solvers, and active members of the community — provide thinking, social and emotional, and attitudinal skills, such as motivation and self-efficacy, that can be applicable to the twenty-first century workforce. These skills overlap with one another creating a web of understanding that help children adapt to new situations with creativity. Students can seize the day in the twenty-first century workforce with skills rather than content. Albert Einstein once said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.”
By Roman B. Fernando, Executive Director
American Academy of Strategic Education – Newport Mesa
21st Century Schools
21st Century Schools