Embedding 21st Century Skills into Everything We Teach

Most teachers worry that teaching 21st Century Skills to our students is yet another thing that they need to work into their teaching schedule. I have had teachers say things like; "If I have to teach 1 hour of 21st Century Skills per week then I will have 1 hour less to spend  on the core subjects." And with state scores hanging over everyone's heads how can you blame them for thinking this way.

In reality though, teaching 21st Century Skills is not an added subject, instead it is a modification to what is already being taught. 21st Century Skills should not be a separate subject in school instead it should be embedded into everyday lessons.

For example let's take the humble book report.

Now let's add each one of the NETS-S from ISTE to the book report:

Creativity and Innovation: have the students create a short Flip video re-enacting their favorite part of the book.

Communication and Collaboration: have the students work in teams with fellow classmates to act out the above video and add it to the classroom wiki or blog.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: have the students add to the above video project what they would have done different if they were the author, or they could pick a different ending and explain why and how it would change the whole story.

Research and Information Fluency: students then could add a short biography of the author to the project by looking up information about the author and other books on the same subject using both on and offline resources.

Digital Citizenship: the book report videos could be promoted in the library for other students to watch, so that the book reports could be shared and students could help each other find good books.

Technology Operations and Skills: the students would have to learn basic video editing and camera work.

So you can see from the above example that the book report was still done as scheduled in a teacher's lesson plan but now it is dripping with 21st Century Skills. Mixing these skills and school technology into our teacher's lessons does not have to be hard, but it does take a little work, and the payoff is well worth the effort.