Teaching 21st Century Skills in 20th Century Schools
by Jean-Pierre Joubert and Denys Koval
In discussing how digital learning impacted teaching 21st Century skills in 20th Century schools, we first need to define 20th Century Schools. While the original source website seems to be business-focused, 21st Century Schools’ breakdown (21st Century Schools, n.d.) does seem to be sound in describing the typical 20th Century classroom. In particular, a 20th Century school is restricted to the four walls of the classroom, is concerned with passive learning through memorization of discrete facts, facilitated by a teacher who is both judge and the provider of information (21st Century Schools, n.d.). In addition, work was often done in isolation.
Additionally, Budhai and Taddei minimally define 21st Century Skills as being “the 4Cs—critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.” (2015, para. 1) While other definitions exist, such as Stauffer’s far more comprehensive list (2020), for the sake of brevity we have held to Budhai and Taddei’s definition.
To this end, we have found that digital learning impacted the teaching of 21st Century Skills in 20th Century Schools in the following ways:
- The Foundation for Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as, “that mode of thinking … in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analysing, assessing, and reconstructing it” (2019, para. 2).
- As noted by 21st Century Schools, this definition was not represented in the way that 20th Century Schools taught (n.d.).
- Additionally, Bates mentions that much of the use of technology during the 20th Century, for example the use of lecture capture systems, was aimed at representing similar functions and experiences to those experienced in classrooms at the time (Bates, 2015, para. 16). As a result, critical thinking in the classroom was not positively impacted at the time by digital technologies.
- In the 1990’s, high-speed internet access led to lecture capture systems using resources such as Youtube to distribute course lectures and digital blackboards for equations and illustrations (Bates, 2015, para. 16).
- While using an Learning Management System (LMS) required courses to be reconfigured for use online, the use of lecture capture, “required no changes to the standard lecture model” (Bates, 2015, para. 17).
- In discussing testing, B.F. Skinner used programmed learning to, “computerize learning, by structuring information, testing learners’ knowledge, and providing immediate feedback to learners, without human intervention other than in the design of the hardware and software and the selection and loading of content and assessment questions” (Bates, 2015, para. 18).
- Bates also describes PLATO, a worldwide and networked, “computer assisted instruction system,” that, “incorporated [online communication tools such as] forums, message boards, online testing, e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging” (2015, para. 19).
- These examples show themselves as precursors to the current use of digital technology, from the range of LMS available today, through to the use of Social Media, forums, streaming services and other digital tools in digital education. While they were at one time novelties or experiments, these uses became far more commonplace as we moved into the 21st Century and, as such, have had a positive impact on open education, especially.
- Technology use has been found to be a disengaging factor when collaborating in-person in a classroom (Heflin, Shewmaker, & Nguyen, 2017, p. 98)
- On the other hand, collaboration increased when technology use had “some form of planning and design for the use of technology to support and promote collaborative work” (Borokhovski, Bernard, Tamim, Schmid, & Sokolovskaya, 2016, p. 20)
- On a positive side, technology use supports creativity by “reinforcing students’ intrinsic motivation, self-regulation, curiosity, self-efficacy and knowledge exchange” (Shubina & Kulakli, 2019, p. 104)
- At the same time, there has been a negative effect of internet technologies on creativity. By facilitating multitasking behaviours, internet technology increases “distractibility and reduced learning, especially in the classroom” (Bruno & Canina, 2019, p. 2125)
21st Century Schools. (n.d.). 20th Century Classroom vs. the 21st Century Classroom. http://www.cais.ca/uploaded/Professional_Development/21st_Century_Schools.pdf
Bates, A. W. (2015). 6.2 A short history of educational technology, Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/section-8-1-a-short-history-of-educational-technology/
Borokhovski, E., Bernard, R. M., Tamim, R. M., Schmid, R. F., & Sokolovskaya, A. (2016). Technology-supported student interaction in post-secondary education: A meta-analysis of designed versus contextual treatments. Computers & Education, 96, 15–28. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2015.11.004
Budhai, S., & Taddei, L. (2015). Building 21st Century Skills through Technology. Teaching the 4Cs with Technology. ASCD Arias. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/sf116038/chapters/Building-21st-Century-Skills-Through-Technology.aspx
Bruno, C. & Canina, M. (2019) Creativity 4.0. Empowering creative process for digitally enhanced people, The Design Journal, 22:sup1, 2119-2131, DOI: 10.1080/14606925.2019.1594935
Heflin, H., Shewmaker, J., & Nguyen, J. (2017). Impact of mobile technology on student attitudes, engagement, and learning. Computers & Education, 107, 91–99. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2017.01.006
Shubina, I., & Kulakli, A. (2019). Pervasive Learning and Technology Usage for Creativity Development in Education. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (IJET), 14(01), 95. doi: 10.3991/ijet.v14i01.9067
Stauffer, B. (2020, March 19). What are 21st Century Skills?. Applied educational systems. https://www.aeseducation.com/blog/what-are-21st-century-skills
The Foundation for Critical Thinking. (2019). Our concept and definition of critical thinking. https://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/our-conception-of-critical-thinking/411