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21st Century Education | Ecology of Education

21st Century Education

All we really know about the future is that we really don’t know much about the future.  We can portend some possible trends based on history, current data, and the theoretical trajectory of prevalent consumption patterns, but at the end of the day, all our pontificating and punditry doesn’t change the fact that we don’t know what’s around the corner.  Or even what corner is where.  Or, without the insight of hindsight, where the heck we are anyway.

Still, considering the future, at a minimum, is a fun way of playing Fantasy Future.  And, thanks to America’s being a premier player on the world’s stage, we can leverage our draft picks to include a fleet of SUV’s, a plethora of fast food restaurants, a slew of mud slinging politicians (most of whom only budge when pushed by crisis or lured by dollars), incredible mega-stores with wicked pricing, and a trash talking president who issues global ultimatums such as “You’re either with us or against us”. With such a roster in place, let’s gaze into the crystal ball of a possible future injury list.

Given the players we have on the field, kids today may tomorrow face:

  • Energy shortages
  • Mercurial globalization efforts
  • Population increases
  • Strained resources
  • Rising and Falling economies
  • Climatic changes

What’s a Fantasy Future coach to do?

While we can’t necessarily affect the choices made before us or their inevitable ramifications in the near future, we can positively influence the education we provide our children.  How we prepare them for the world we’re giving them could make a huge difference in how they address and overcome the challenges of tomorrow.
But what skills will students need in order to be successful as adults in the 21st century? The Harvard Education Letter (Sept/Oct 2008) lists the following commonly regarded skills necessary for the world to come:
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Collaboration
  • Written and oral communication
  • Creativity
  • Self-direction
  • Leadership
  • Adaptability
  • Responsibility
  • Global awareness

The current accountability push overemphasizes standardization and testing while underemphasizing engagement and innovation.  However, there are a number of states working to develop and implement curricula aimed at cultivating 21st century skill sets.  Check out the http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the innovative programming they propose.

Finding a way to make learning experiential and relevant for students is a giant step toward equipping students with knowledge and confidence to face issues head on, perhaps even before they become issues.  We may even help them choose a Fantasy Future team that demonstrates a long view toward sustainability.

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Author:Jason Flom

Learner. Educator. Reader. Writer. Cyclist. Part-time Polyanna. Husband. Daddy. Founder, Ecology of Education. Director of Learning Platforms, Q.E.D. Foundation. Twitter: @JasonFlom. LinkedIn: Jason Flom; Edutopia's Green School Group; and doing dishes while pretending to be a professional underground rapper. "I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion." Kurt Hahn