Jeff's Reviews > 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times

21st Century Skills by Bernie Trilling
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Feb 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: education

21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times is a great very accessible articulation of a vision for modern schools. Authors, Trilling and Fadel, co-chairs of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills' Standards, Assessment, and Professional Development committee, articulate a rationale for an expanded curriculum that encompasses what Frank Levy and Richard Murnane named expert thinking and complex communication in The New Division of Labor as well as the habits of mind that are explored by Arthur Costas and information and communication technology skills. These ideas encompass a ground swell shift on what our schools should focus. Following their rationale for why make the shift, Trilling and Fadel explore what the shift should look like and then give some practical advice about how it can be implemented.

My one criticism of the book is that the framework from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills places information, media, and technology skills on the same level as learning and innovation skills (their name for expert thinking and complex communication) and life and career skills (what I equate with the habits of mind). To my own thinking, technology skills should be folded into the traditional basic skills and knowledge because they are functional procedural knowledge that impact how we practice reading, writing, and general mathematics. Sure we need to intentionally name that students should be able to critically read information on the internet and produce content for web pages, but these are extensions of how we read and write. Thus I would reduce the focus on technology, but I also realize that Trilling, global director of the Oracle Foundation, and Fadel, at Cisco Systems, are not likely to diminish the role of technology when their livelihood depends on it.

With that one caveat aside, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in schools today and everyone should be. Written with a broad audience in mind, it doesn't get into some of the nitty-gritty of project based learning, but makes a strong case for all schools moving in that direction.
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