Every day on Twitter, media outlets, and through my inbox, I am lambasted with arguments as to the essential elements of 21st century learning and teaching and its merits. Most of the skills and knowledge associated with 21st century learning begin with “C” for some strange reason, and deal with notions of creativity, collaboration, citizenship, etc. Here is a very popular framework.
While I do acknowledge that we need a perpetual debate as to what learning is and what excellence in teaching might be, I think that much of our focus as educators has been diverted to thought experiments where we are trying to predict the future. We are told what skills students will need in the future as if we have a crystal ball. How can we presume to prepare young people for any kind of future? Will they need lasers are on their heads?
What if we prepare learners for today? The world they are living in now is in crisis. According to the updated research on the Planetary Boundaries, Rockstrom, Steffen, et al. (who first produced the Planetary Boundaries in 2009) have updated their research and have posited that we have surpassed four of the nine planetary boundaries. Two of these, that of climate change and biosphere integrity, are so paramount that their compromise will “drive the earth into a new state.” You can access the full article here. (There is a paywall, so if you have a university library card, you win.)
I believe that 21st century skills need to be based on an ecological literacy — that is learners need to have have deep knowledge of the ecological crisis, but also need to overcome paralysis and take meaningful action. This is what educators should be focused on. I have written at length about this, so I won’t bore you, but I will offer two resources for your classroom today that will help your learners move beyond a superficial understanding of the crisis they are inheriting from us.
I would love feedback on how you use them. The slideshow is very powerful.