What Are 21st Century Skills?
21st Century skills are 12 abilities that today’s students need to succeed in their careers during the Information Age.
The twelve 21st Century skills
- Critical thinking
- Information literacy
- Media literacy
- Technology literacy
- Social skills
These skills are intended to help students keep up with the lightning-pace of today’s modern markets. Each skill is unique in how it helps students, but they all have one quality in common. They’re essential in the age of the Internet.
The Three 21st Century Skill Categories
Each 21st Century skill is broken into one of three categories:
- Learning skills
- Literacy skills
- Life skills
Learning skills (the four C’s) teaches students about the mental processes required to adapt and improve upon a modern work environment.
Literacy skills (IMT) focuses on how students can discern facts, publishing outlets, and the technology behind them. There’s a strong focus on determining trustworthy sources and factual information to separate it from the misinformation that floods the Internet.
Life skills (FLIPS) take a look at intangible elements of a student’s everyday life. These intangibles focus on both personal and professional qualities.
Altogether, these categories cover all 12 21st Century skills that contribute to a student’s future career.
Category 1. Learning Skills (The Four C’s)
The four C’s are by far the most popular 21st Century skills. These skills are also called learning skills.
More educators know about these skills because they’re universal needs for any career. They also vary in terms of importance, depending on an individual’s career aspirations.
The 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills are:
- Critical thinking: Finding solutions to problems
- Creativity: Thinking outside the box
- Collaboration: Working with others
- Communication: Talking to others
Literacy skills are the next category of 21st Century skills.
They’re sometimes called IMT skills, and they’re each concerned with a different element in digital comprehension.
The three 21st Century literacy skills are:
- Information literacy: Understanding facts, figures, statistics, and data
- Media literacy: Understanding the methods and outlets in which information is published
- Technology literacy: Understanding the machines that make the Information Age possible
Information literacy is a foundational skill. It helps students understand facts, especially data points, that they’ll encounter online. More importantly, it teaches them how to separate fact from fiction.
Media literacy is the practice of identifying publishing methods, outlets, and sources while distinguishing between the ones that are credible and the ones that aren’t. Just like the previous skill, media literacy is helpful for finding truth in a world that’s saturated with information. This is how students find trustworthy sources of information in their lives. Without it, anything that looks credible becomes credible. But with it, they can learn which media outlets or formats to ignore. They also learn which ones to embrace, which is equally important.
Last, technology literacy goes another step further to teach students about the machines involved in the Information Age.
Technology literacy gives students the basic information they need to understand what gadgets perform what tasks and why. This understanding removes the intimidating feeling that technology tends to have. After all, if you don’t understand how the technology works, it might as well be magic. But technology literacy unmasks the high-powered tools that run today’s world. As a result, students can adapt to the world more effectively. They can play an important role in its evolution.
Category 3. Life Skills (FLIPS)
Life skills is the final category. Also called FLIPS, these skills all pertain to someone’s personal life, but they also bleed into professional settings.
The five 21st Century life skills are:
- Flexibility: Deviating from plans as needed
- Leadership: Motivating a team to accomplish a goal
- Initiative: Starting projects, strategies, and plans on one’s own
- Productivity: Maintaining efficiency in an age of distractions
- Social skills: Meeting and networking with others for mutual benefit
Flexibility is the expression of someone’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Flexibility is crucial to a student’s long-term success in a career. Knowing when to change, how to change, and how to react to change is a skill that’ll pay dividends for someone’s entire life.
Leadership is someone’s penchant for setting goals, walking a team through the steps required, and achieving those goals collaboratively.
True success also requires initiative, requiring students to be self-starters. Initiative only comes naturally to a handful of people. As a result, students need to learn it to fully succeed. This is one of the hardest skills to learn and practice. Initiative often means working on projects outside of regular working hours.
Along with initiative, 21st Century skills require students to learn about productivity. That’s a student’s ability to complete work in an appropriate amount of time. By understanding productivity strategies at every level, students discover the ways in which they work best while gaining an appreciation for how others work as well. That equips them with the practical means to carry out the ideas they determine through flexibility, leadership, and initiative.
Still, there’s one last skill that ties all other 21st Century skills together.
Social skills are crucial to the ongoing success of a professional. Business is frequently done through the connections one person makes with others around them.
This concept of networking is more active in some industries than others, but proper social skills are excellent tools for forging long-lasting relationships. While these may have been implied in past generations, the rise of social media and instant communications have changed the nature of human interaction. As a result, today’s students possess a wide range of social skills.