Teaching in the 21st Century

There is a story of Rip Van Winkle who awoke from his 300-year nap. He woke up and nothing looked familiar as he walked around the streets of New York city until he walked into the school …Rip remembered that one of the reasons he had enjoyed going to school was socializing … Three hundred years had passed, but Rip still felt more at home in the “modern” classroom than anywhere else in a society. He sow teachers still standing affront of the class reading from the book and students still sitting in a straight rows and talk was discouraged.

Is it a true picture? -To big extends YES. How is it possible that all attempts for innovation in a school still drown by much in a routine work and pressure of traditional approach?

Integrating 21st Century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects – needed

More awareness on all levels is necessary as we are in a 21st century and the world keeps on changing. To prepare students for a future one shall not only think about skills of today but also try to predict how progress will go in next years to come.

To prepare kids for those unknowing changes we need to teach them adaptability and universal skills.  This diagram is demonstrating 21st century skills ideas.


Keeping them in mind and making sure that once creating a lesson plan you have those skills on checklist will place learning process to right direction.

Here is a sum-up of the main 21 century skills so called 4C.

Knowing them one can think of ways to integrate them into teaching and learning. Great examples of implementing 4c in a class( below)  can be easily applicable to science lessons of middle school.


  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration

Creativity and Innovation

Think Creatively

  • Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
  • Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
  • Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts

Work Creatively with Others

  • Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively
  • Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate group input and feedback into the work
  • Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real world limits to adopting new ideas
  • View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes

Implement Innovations

  • Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in which the innovation will occur

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Reason Effectively

  • Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as appropriate to the situation

Use Systems Thinking

  • Analyze how parts of a whole interact with each other to produce overall outcomes in complex systems

Make Judgments and Decisions

  • Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs
  • Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view
  • Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments
  • Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis
  • Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes

Solve Problems

  • Solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and innovative ways
  • Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions

Communication and Collaboration

Communicate Clearly

  • Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts
  • Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions
  • Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate and persuade)
  • Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priori as well as assess their impact
  • Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including multi-lingual)

Collaborate with Others

  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  • Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member

Integrating the 4C’s into learning will allow students to develop a big range of necessary life skills. For example how to take initiative, questioning, planning, researching, learning social skills, such as cooperation, compromise, communication, using emotional intelligence, and constructive criticism. It can help develop productivity in terms of learning time management, goal setting, planning, research, accountability, and evaluation and leadership skills.

Integrating technology to help student’s access, manage, and use information in an ethical manner, and create media products

There is many options nowadays to be creative towards integrating technology in a class. It is possible to use combination of stationary computers with programs and apps for working with media products and mobile devices for recording (making pictures and videos) collecting materials. It is important to follow good practices and make sure that all students have access to necessary technology and have equal background knowledge to operate computers and devices.

It is vital to have explanation about ethical aspects of placing and using information and pictures from Internet / social networks. Organizing thematic lessons and guest seminars is important to raise student awardee and understanding of ethical aspects

Non-examples  21st century learning

Those can be the cases when use of technology does not lead to desired learning outcome of 4C’s skills (collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication).

Lets say one can use Internet for random browsing or use computer for typing – that use of technology does not result in developing 4c skills.

USING technology in the classroom does not ALWAYS mean students are learning 21st century skills…

The important point is how technology is used. It can only be considered 21st century skills if teachers use technology in such a fashion that develops a student’s ability to think critically, analyze information, evaluate, problem-solve, brain storm, build teamwork, and collaborate with others.


  1. Framework for 21st century learning Retrieved from: http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework/262
  2. Critical and Creative Thinking – Bloom’s Taxonomy Retrieved from: http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic69.htm
  1. Curiosity Teaching Program Retrieved from: http://www.curiositateaching.com/

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