Teaching 21st Century Skills at Home

If your son or daughter’s school has adopted the Common Core standards, then you’ve probably heard of “21st Century Skills” and how important they are to your children’s future.  However, you may not have actually heard what they are.  When I was teaching, I also heard the term thrown ambiguously thrown around in planning meetings.  We were supposed to always consider them when writing lesson plans, but it took me a while to get a real hold on what was meant by them.

After some asking, I learned that 21st Century Skills is a broad term used to cover a lot of different things that students will need to know as they enter the workforce in the 21st century.  The main idea behind the term is that the way we were taught in school is no longer relevant—we need to adapt our education system to fit the needs of the workforce in the future as jobs evolve.  The best way to understand the term is to see it in action with specific examples.

The following diagram covers the majority of what are considered to be these skills:


I’ve pulled out a few of my favorites to give specific examples of things that you can do at home to help develop these skills:

  1.  Technology Literacy:  This one is pretty easy, because most kids are naturally drawn to electronics and games.  The key here is to make sure that they are using technology for a variety of functions and developing a variety of skills—not just using Snap Chat or playing Temple Run.  Have them download a calendar app to plan their week, use a homework management app to show them how task managers work, or play learning games to help build their vocabulary skills.  You can also give younger students fun topics to research as an online “scavenger hunt,” use Inspiration software to mind-map assignments, or Skype with their grandparents.  Make sure that they are learning how to set up and execute the programs instead of doing it for them!
  2. Information Literacy:  For any one piece of information on the internet, you can probably find its counterpart that directly contradicts it.  In the age of Wikipedia, it’s important for kids to look at information that they come across with a skeptical eye.  You can instill this in your children by always having them ask, “Who made the message and why?” “What is left out of the message?” “How might others view the message differently?”  This will help them understand that not everything they read, hear, or see is true!
  3. Invention:  Kids have a natural desire to play and create.  Think of all the forts that you made out of boxes or sheets when you were a kid!   I have a distinct memory of mixing a bunch of cooking ingredients together and trying to feed the result to my mother with a proud look on my face.  Although you probably don’t want to eat random kitchen mush, encouraging similar behaviors helps kids think creatively and independently.  You can foster this desire to create by purchasing engineering toys such as Legos, Rector Sets, or Goldie Blocks, or enroll your older children into art, music, woodworking, or writing classes.  You can also reference my blog from a few weeks back if you’re interested in fostering creativity in your children.

Interested in learning more about 21st Century skills?  Respond back with any ideas that you have about how you can incorporate them into your home.