Monday, November 23, 2009

The Forgotten 21st Century Skill

This morning I presented the topic, "Becoming 21st Century Ready" to a group of teachers and administrators from international schools around the world. We started the presentation by discussing what everyone thought of when they heard the term "21st century skills." To my delight, this group developed a list that was directly in line with the skills that Atomic Learning promotes. "The ability to research," "living a balanced life," "the ability to use technology," and "the ability to communicate" were just a few of the skills shouted from the group.

But as we went on to discuss the topic more, Mrs. K from the audience brought up an interesting point. She said, "I think we have forgotten an invaluable skill that we, as teachers, need to develop in our students.
This is the skill of being open-minded and accepting of differences." "Different is normal," shouted another gentleman from the group. Coincidentally, this was also a common theme in the morning’s keynote speech by Wade Davis.

Mrs. K. brings up a good point, and I agree with the fact that being open-minded is becoming increasingly critical as many cultures around the world work and live together. Being closed-minded will increase conflict and ultimately cause failure, not success. But I don’t believe all is lost. When we look at the 21st century skills that Atomic Learning promotes, being open-minded can be infused in several of them. Let’s start with global awareness. As we develop the skill of being globally aware in our students, it should not only be about understanding the happenings in the world, but it should also be about the cultural reasons and background for these happenings. Next, let’s think about digital citizenship. Encouraging students to be more accepting of differences should help in reducing cyberbullying. Finally, let’s think about communication and collaboration. As students learn how to effectively communicate and collaborate with team members of different backgrounds and cultures, we teach them that they need to be open-minded if they hope to function as a productive team.

So here's my challenge to all teachers out there. As you continue to learn of new ways you can incorporate the development of 21st century skills into your curriculum, remember to inject the idea of being open-minded. Only then can we ensure that this 21st century skill is not forgotten.


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