This morning I read a thought-provoking blog post by John Bernia, “The Landscape has Changed, the Skills are the Same.”
In his post, Bernia argues that what many refer to as “21st Century Skills” are really no different than the skills that successful people in the past have needed:
If Doc Brown and Marty McFly were here to fly you “Back to the Future,” and we arrived in 1955, the skills and habits of successful people would be identical to those which are now cited as 21st century skills. Leaders and innovators of the mid-20th century had to solve problems, communicate and work with others.
Bernia concludes that: “The skills are not new. The landscape, tools, pace and communication medium are.” He calls upon educators to change our strategies by embracing “the new landscape and tools” and remembering “that the skills that learners will need to succeed in the future are no different today than they were 58 years ago.”
His post really got me thinking about the essential skills and habits of mind that our students will need for their success and how they compare with those of the past. Are the skills really the same?
If our current landscape is characterized by rapid change as well as access to powerful digital tools that make possible communication and collaboration across vast global networks, then doesn’t it also require a different set of competencies to navigate it successfully?
To be sure, people in the 20th Century needed to be able communicate effectively and work with others to solve problems. When tools for creating and publishing ideas are readily available to a wide range of people across the globe, how does this change the equation? I am not sure I have the answer to this question, but I’ve got to think that a changing landscape does call for a deeper understanding of the world around us, the ability to connect and interact in meaningful ways across different contexts, acumen to actively pursue new knowledge and critically evaluate the information available.
So what do you think? Are 21st Century skills really that different from those required for success in the 20th Century? How does our understanding of the similarities/differences influence our work in preparing students for their future?