How do you teach 21st Century Skills in the 21st Century Social Studies classroom?
By now, if you’ve been around education in the last 15 years, the phrase “21st Century Skills” has been used, over-used, and abused. It’s gone through varying definitions, mutations, and in some cases, may still have different definitions in different school districts or educational thinkers. So, for clarity, my definition is this: how can you teach students the basic critical thinking skills, and have technology enhance it. That’s it.
The skills we’re talking about are generally: research and information fluency, communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, and creativity and innovation. You can add some I’m sure which wouldn’t affect what I’m about to write.
So how should a teacher go about using these skills? Again, there are many ways to be implemented, but I think an efficient model would be to link the skill with the content, and then seek a way in which technology can enhance the lesson.
For example, you’re teaching World War One and want the students to study the Zimmerman Telegram. This is when you teach Research and Information Fluency . . . BECAUSE . . . that’s what Woodrow Wilson and his advisers would have done once they received the telegram. Was it real? Was it forged? How can we find out? What do we do with the information once we find that answer? Next, have the students research the Zimmerman Telegram on Wikipedia. For example, take them to the original entry, have them look at the debate, and explain how history is always revised, and should be! History IS Information Fluency.
Then, to finalize your lesson, have students give answers to why Wilson would have thought it was true. Students can edit Wikipedia, add new research, etc…
You can do this with a lot of content in history: communication and collaboration with the First Continental Congress, Egyptian pyramids with creativity and innovation, and critical thinking and problem solving with the Cuban Missile Crisis. There are dozens of other options.
Again, the point is for the students to go through the same skills that the subject of their current content went through. Then, finding a way for technology to enhance the lesson.