Learning and innovation skills are increasingly recognized as those that distinguish students who are prepared for more complex life and work environments in the 21st century from those who are not. A focus on the 4C’s of 21st Century Learning: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and Innovation are essential to prepare students for the future.
Critical thinking in the 21st century is described as the ability to design and manage projects, solve problems, and make effective decisions using a variety of tools and resources. Thinking critically requires from students: the ability to think logically, to solve ill-defined problems by identifying and describing the problem, critically analyzing the information available or creating the knowledge required, framing and testing various hypotheses, formulating creative solutions, and taking action.
Communication in a 21st century context refers not only to the ability to communicate effectively, orally, in writing, and with a variety of digital tools but also to listening skills. Digital tools and resources represent a new realm of communications interaction in which the ability to navigate successfully is essential for success in the 21st century. Each tool has its own rhetoric (e.g., an effective blog post is different from an effective tweet or persuasive essay). The issue is not just learning to use new communication tools but mastering many forms of rhetoric – a more challenging task.
Collaboration in a 21st century context requires the ability to work in teams, learn from and contribute to the learning of others, use social networking skills, and demonstrate empathy in working with diverse others. Collaboration also requires students to develop collective intelligence and to co-construct meaning, becoming creators of content as well as consumers.
Creativity and Innovation
Creativity is often described as the pursuit of new ideas, concepts, or products that meet a need in the world. Innovation contains elements of creativity and is often described as the realization of a new idea to make a useful contribution to a particular field.