As some of you who read the education literature may have already seen, Pearson recently released their Learning Curves 2014 report. There has not been a huge amount of coverage on it, but what there has been has largely been from people writing about how to integrate the skills spoken about in the report into the standard school system.
I thought that it was maybe worth turning our minds briefly towards thinking about these skills in the context of homeschooling.
The report outlines 8 skills that it states are necessary skills for students to achieve success in the 21st century.
I have discussed elsewhere my views on success (essentially just being happy) so I don’t really want to get into definitional debates here. These skills are clearly intended to create success defined as economic success. Whilst perhaps we can debate at what minimum level economic ‘success’ is attained, I suspect that we can all mostly agree that it is a grim world without at least some level of income and that therefore these skills may be worth a closer look.
Besides, looking through them, I would actually be pretty happy to argue that most, if not all, of them are valuable life skills anyway.
The eight skills outlined in the report are: Leadership, Digital Literacy, Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Global Citizenship, Problem Solving and Team-working.
Source: Pearson Education
Looking at these I had no instant argument with any of them – they are a skill-set that when I am hiring staff, I wish that more candidates actually evidenced.
What did strike me though, at first look, was that these appear to be pretty hard to achieve in a homeschooling environment, at least for people outside of America and unable to access learning co-ops. Not impossible at all, but things that perhaps require a little extra effort to ensure that they are present in the learning that our children undertake.
In thinking about these skills I wanted to achieve a deeper understanding of where they came from and what they meant in this context, so I have spent a couple of weeks going through all of the articles and papers referenced throughout the report. Turns out that there was no one definitive paper from which all eight were drawn, although, for those who may be interested in delving deeper, this paper (A Rich Seam) lists and discusses six of them.
Very interestingly, A Rich Seam lists Creativity and Imagination as one of the six critical skills, although it does then go on to define this as entrepreneurship and also the ability to consider and pursue new ideas and to take a leadership role in taking action for change – I guess that each of these got broken out so that we ended up with a neat 8 concepts.
The same paper goes on to set out what I consider to be a very interesting focus on ‘deep learning tasks’ as being the key to unlocking these skills. It describes this process as:
“One way tasks do this is through the process of complex problem-solving. Deep learning tasks quite often involve students in working on
complex problems that have relevance and impact in the world (well beyond content mastery goals). Deep learning tasks thus often connect students with what Daniel Pink calls ‘purpose:’”
The paper goes on to say that deep learning comes from highly engaged students and that this best occurs when students are given the choice over how they will demonstrate, in a real-world task, their mastery of a skill or subject area. Essentially, at least for those of us flirting more at the unschooling end of the spectrum, versus replicating school at home, this is what many of us who are homeschooling are already trying to achieve.
So how do we achieve not just the high levels of engagement, but high levels of engagement that practice and build each of the eight areas listed above? Interestingly to me, the answer within schools is that they have been turning to simple technologies like Skype and collaboration tools like Google Docs to enable a wider reach than just the local school community. In other words, even though they are sitting in classes of thirty, they are often going (virtually) outside of their classrooms and engaging with the outside world.
Frankly this sounds like something that homeschooled kids should excel at. Most are far more comfortable dealing with adults and the community in general than standard school kids, who largely only deal with kids their age. Unless being taught in very conservative homes, they should also be mastering technological communication and collaboration tools earlier than their peers, as it is often the only available choice when wanting to engage with their peers.
Reflecting back, an exercise done by Connor that most reflected all of these skills, was his Minecraft Homeschool course on medieval Europe – Connor wrote posts on his experience in the class here and here and we also wrote about the offline project we had to complete here.
From opening in-game shops and deciding what would turn the best profit, through to small and large group collaborations, not to mention the very global nature of participants, I cannot think of a single skill from the list that Connor did not build upon during this class.
So, more of these in future for us – although that was on the cards anyway as Connor loved it. But, in the end, it is still a class, however cool and is not the same as something completely self-directed.
Inspired by this class and his love of some Youtube channels, Connor started his own channel and this has been an interesting process to watch. Youtube is a sea of videos and getting even a few views can be very challenging. It is a matter of focus and time, as well as serving relevant content. I have seen Connor building on many of the listed skills through this process and also gradually picking up other specific skills like video-editing and presentation skills, but it is not yet a project that is building leadership or collaborative skills and I guess that we should look for ways of building these skills into his current passion.
In the end this list of skills for the 21st century is just a list. But it is also something useful to keep at the back of our minds, so that if we see a chance to make a minor-adjustment in a project or task that builds in one or more of these skills, we should take the chance. Every little bit helps.