Do You Have These 21st Century Skills?

Setting up our students as successful 21st Century Learners is a Big Deal. In the 1990s, the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association established national standards for English language arts learners that anticipated the more sophisticated literacy skills and abilities required for full participation in a global, 21st century community. While the 90’s seem like a long time ago, the standards that were set out  way back then are still important and applicable. While many of these standards have subsets of skills and abilities, the main list is below. (Source)

Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to:

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.




While these are both admirable and essential qualities to  be instilling in our students, I think it is also important for teachers to be holding themselves to similar standards. While we know that many of Edudemic’s readers already are pushing the boundaries of understanding new technology and how the 21st century works, it is always a good idea to check in with yourself to see where you really are.

I read a blog post from Will Richardson (who, if you don’t read his blog, posts and links to a lot of good stuff, so get going!) recently who posed a number of theoretical questions to teachers and principals that deal with their own 21st century literacy. He put his guesses as to what the answers would be in parenthesis.

  • Do you have the skills and abilities to learn with online social media? (21%)
  • Are you knowledgable about and regularly engage in personal and professional learning opportunities online? (20%)
  • Do you regularly engage in discussions about learning with technology with your teachers (or with your principals)? (8%)
  • Do you take responsibility for your own professional development? (11%)
  • Are you “literate” as defined by the National Council Teachers of English? (5%)
  • Are you encouraged and supported to innovate with technology in your classrooms and schools? (18%)


  1. Tobey Steeves

    April 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Ms. Lepi,

    I recently defended my MA thesis in education policy studies at the Centre for Cross Faculty Inquiry in Education, University of British Columbia. The main focus of my research was constructions of ‘good teachers’ and ‘good teaching’ in BC’s ’21st-century learning’ (21CL) policy agenda. In brief, I found that BC’s vision of 21CL masks a managerialist attack on teachers’ work, and is best understood as a vehicle for aggravating a democratic deficit in education policy.

    With that said, Ms. Lepi, I feel compelled to challenge a few of the very problematic agenda(s) that appear to be lurking within and beneath your post.

    Although uncredited, the graphic that’s labeled “21st century student outcomes and support systems” is via the Partnership for 21st Century Skills – the largest and most aggressive advocate for 21CL in North America. P21 draws strong backing from some of the world’s largest corporations – Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Ford, Disney, Pearson, SMART, Hewlett Packard, etc. In 2005 “partners” paid a yearly premium of $35k to participate in P21’s re-conceptualization of public schooling. What I mean to illustrate here is that P21 pushes a corporate agenda that’s backed by an economic elite. Not teachers. Not scholars of pedagogy. Not social justice advocates. None of that. No, 21CL is a corporate fantasy, through and through.

    “The starting point has to be the recognition that there are two distinct logics at work. One is a logic of education, based on social and individual needs, and notions of equality and democracy.The other is a logic of business, whose bottom line is profit. Not everything business wants to do is incompatible with educational interests. But the logic of business is incompatible with the logic of education.” (Hatcher, 2011, p. 58)

    Second, one key component of 21CL’s diminution of teachers’ work is the stress given to “skills” for the “knowledge economy”. Mounds of research literature links “knowledge economy” discourses with neoliberalism, compounding inequalities, and a crisis of democracy, so I’ll not waste time there. Instead, I’d like to problematize this assumption that “skills” are meaningful priorities as possible outcomes of teachers’ work.

    Richard Pring (2004) understands this economic skills agenda as relying on “the bewitchment of the intelligence by a misuse of language.” Pring critiques the vocationalistic skills strategy by suggesting that a skilled philosopher is not necessarily a good philosopher. A skilled philosopher, for instance, may be quite adept at the mechanics of philosophical argumentation without actually having “anything philosophically interesting to say.” This critique holds for lawyers, authors, musicians, and other professions. Therefore, Pring suggests that “to focus on skills traps us into a limited language which transforms and impoverishes the educational enterprise.” In other words, there may be noble hopes animating the push for skills and embedded in policies, but they may actually “impoverish the educational enterprise.”

    Given these points, Ms. Lepi, I invite you to download and grapple with my thesis – in the hope that you might come round to advocating for a more democratic otherwise.

    Tobey Steeves
    Twitter: @Symphily

    • Jeff Dunn

      April 13, 2013 at 10:08 am

      Hey Tobey, your comment had been blocked by our spam filter due to the multiple links. In order to post, links had to be removed. Other comments get approved if they don’t contain links, fyi. Thanks for reading!

  2. Tatyana Warrick

    April 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks for posting this wonderful reminder about the importance of 21st century skills, however they’re called, for the needs of our global society. As you know, the rainbow graphic you included is P21’s Framework for 21st Century Learning. However you did not reference P21 or the Framework, and we would like to rectify this oversight. Thanks so much!