Next generation skills, also called 21st century skills, are critical in the modern knowledge economy. One of the more authoritative lists of these skills is the P21 Framework developed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which include:
- critical thinking
- problem solving
- creativity and innovation
- communication (written, oral, blended, advanced media)
- information sourcing and media literacy
- self-direction and self-assessment
- application of technology to workflow
Most of these skills are not new. Skills like critical thinking and communication have been a part of the educational landscape for a long time. However, as technology becomes ever more pervasive, there is greater need to apply these skills within a technological context. Our society has shifted from one of mass production and standardization to one of dispersed production and differentiation. It’s now a fast changing, knowledge-based society that requires workers to adapt, collaborate, problem solve, think critically, communicate across multiple mediums and be self-directed. While traditional academic knowledge standards are still important, students must master these skills to succeed in college and careers. There’s a growing recognition that traditional education, while critical to the intellectual development of our children, does not adequately address these needs.
The SmartLab® Approach
One of the biggest challenges facing educators today is, ‘How do we prepare today’s learners for jobs that don’t yet exist and which will require proficiency in technologies that haven’t been invented.’ While we cannot define the specific knowledge or skills that will be required to succeed in a fast paced global economy, it’s imperative we equip today’s learners with the competencies necessary to adapt and thrive.
SmartLabs® require students to define goals and problems to solve using a variety of technologies. They need to think critically and creatively to accomplish this. Collaboration and communication with other students and the Facilitator is part of the process. Various information sources and media may be used for research, production and presentation. Students are self-directed and self-assess through our ePortfolio system. Technology is applied as they follow a workflow to completion. Through it all, students acquire next generation skills that will be relevant and applicable for many years to come in through their college and career.