Monthly Archives: November 2015

What 21st Century Skills?

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Much has been written about preparing learners for 21st Century work contexts and the skills that they require to be successful in such contexts. Today’s workforce entrants are likely to have an average of 17 different jobs during their working lives (Brown, 2015), so it is plausible that many of these skills relate to resilience and independence but what of other skills, and are they new or have they just undergone metamorphosis? While a number of these skills are frequently mentioned e.g., resource sharing, collaboration, personalisation and content creation, two common examples are communication and aggregation.

Are the skills different or new?

It could be argued quite easily that some skills required by workforce entrants are not new, but it can also be argued that they are different. In the example of communication skills, 15 years ago job entrants were required to possess good writing skills, speak confidently and participate effectively in the workplace. In a modern context all of these are still important, but communicating with others through a number of different synchronous and asynchronous means, often spanning different time zones, cultures and with access to growing numbers of people on different devices, is also commonplace. Another major difference in today’s communication is the speed and frequency at which dialogue is conducted, which appears to be increasing with every device upgrade.

Other skills have increased in importance, for example aggregation skills. Where a worker could previously attend a library, or consult journal or newspaper articles for resources, they are now presented with many different mediums from which to find information. Further, as job entrants may not have previously had these responsibilities, it is now normal for all workers to search for information to ensure currency and to provide up to date information to customers.

Another key difference between present-day information aggregation and the past is that much of the curation aspect was undertaken for workers e.g., by libraries, through peer review and publishers. In modern contexts, workers are often left to discern the validity and credibility of the sources, prompting requirements for an enhanced aggregation skill set including digital citizenship.

Therefore, while communication and aggregation skills are not new, they are more detailed, complex and frequently rely upon other connected skills to be effective in modern contexts.

21st Century Skills Morphed 

Caterpillar to Chrysalis

Caterpillar to Chrysalis

These examples represent many other ‘21st Century skills’ that are deemed necessary for modern contexts. While many are not new, they have undertaken some metamorphosis such as in the example of communication, or they have connected with other skills and increased in importance within workplaces as they spread amongst a wider pool of employees for example, aggregation.

The next step is to adjust teaching methods to foster 21st Century skills commencing with known skill requirements and applying them to modern contexts. Like the learners, teachers are faced with different pedagogical approaches not necessarily new pedagogies. Changing the mind-set may assist educators to commence the journey to modernising approaches for digital teaching and learning.

I am interested to know what you think.  




Are skills required in 21st century workplaces mostly new, morphed or gained significance from those required in the last century?

They are new
They have just morphed
Most have gained significance
Please Specify:

Quiz Maker

Louise is a 15+ year veteran of digital teaching and learning and founder of CloudEd.


Brown, R. (2015). More than half of students chasing dying careers, report warns. ABC News. Retrieved from

Rahimi, E., Berg, J., & Veen, W (2015). A learning model for enhancing the student’s control in educational process using Web 2.0 personal learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology. doi 10.1111/bjet.12170

Salmon, G., & Wright, P. (2014). Transforming Future Teaching through ‘Carpe Diem’ Learning Design. Education Sciences. doi: 10.3390/educsci4010052

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