The 21st century started on January 1, 2001. From then until now, it’s safe to say that educational technology has evolved significantly in efficiency, scope, and methodology. So when someone in the edtech industry refers to “21st century skills,” what exactly does that mean in 2022? That’s why at Filament, we prefer the term “future-facing skills.” We need to constantly update the definition of 21st century skills so the term accurately represents the skills needed for success in the current workforce, wherever we may be between now and the year 2100. Since we’re in 2022 (at least at the time of publishing this blog) what do 21st century skills mean in 2022?
Before we continue our conversation on 21st century learning for 2022, we wanted to thank you for stopping by the Filament Games blog and let you know that you can join in on the discussion by tagging us on Twitter or Facebook!
An ever-evolving definition
A broad definition of 21st century skills according to Wikipedia is the “skills, abilities, and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required for success in 21st century society and workplaces by educators, business leaders, academics, and governmental agencies.” But this definition may be confusing to many people. The fact is, 2001 is just as much a part of the 21st century as 2020, but the way students learned in 2020 looked pretty different from how students learned in 2001.
To keep up with the times, 21st century skills have to have an ever-evolving definition relevant to the current time period. Again, this is why “future-facing skills” is our preferred term, since it doesn’t define a set of skills by a period of 100 years and instead keeps the focus on the future workforce.
When you think of 21st century skills, you may think of the 4 Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. The 4 Cs of 21st century skills are still important and relevant to today’s workplace, but did you know that there’s a lot more where that came from? In addition to these four skills, many organizations and educational institutions agree that 21st century learning also requires different forms of literacy, including media literacy, and life skills, such as flexibility.
For more information on different categories of future-facing skills, check out the video below from Applied Education Systems. Note that 21st century skills don’t have an all-encompassing “official” definition, so this is just one organization’s way of expanding on the term to fit today’s increasingly digital educational system and workforce.
Expanding 21-century skills to meet the needs of today’s students
Similar to Applied Education Systems, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) sees 21st century skills as the 4 Cs, life and career skills, and information, media, and technology skills. P21 also visualizes these skills as building on top of the 3 Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) as you can see below.
via Battelle for Kids
Even in the time between 2019 and 2020, the educational industry changed significantly out of necessity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will likely never be the same as it was beforehand. Because of this, technological literacy, or the “ability to assess, acquire and communicate information in a fully digital environment,” is becoming increasingly important to today’s teachers and students.
But 21st century learning can expand beyond media and technology skills, especially in 2022. On their website, Education Reform provides “a brief illustrative overview of the knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits commonly associated with 21st century skills,” which includes the 4 Cs along with “Environmental and conservation literacy, ecosystems understanding,” “Perseverance, self-direction, planning, self-discipline, adaptability, initiative,” “Civic, ethical, and social-justice literacy,” and many more. With the presence of climate change and other world crises, it’s no surprise that environmentalism, resilience, and civic engagement both online and off are a concern for today’s educators and students.
Game-based learning and future-facing skills
When it comes to building skills for 2022 and beyond, educational video games are an excellent resource for students and teachers. The rise of scholastic esports and the growing popularity of esports leagues in K-12 schools has brought students tons of new opportunities to build communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity skills, among others. Many of the skills the students learn from participating in esports, both in and out of gaming, can set them up for future success in a variety of fields.
For example, the strategic thinking skills a student cultivates on an esports team can later translate to a job in data analysis, math, and more. The creative skills a student picks up during their time on an esports team could lead to a future in software development, graphic design, or journalism. And we didn’t even mention some of the emerging esports-specific career paths yet, such as professional esports player or shoutcaster!
Game-based learning is also a great way to teach students about good digital citizenship as the educational metaverse continues to develop and shape the future of education. In games, students can learn how to respectfully and responsibly interact with others in a risk-free environment. Games also allow learners of any age to hone their technological literacy and competency. Games are immersive, motivating, and engaging, and there’s an expansive collection of research that demonstrates the effectiveness of game-based learning for 21st century skills.
To 2023 and beyond
Returning to our opening question: what does the term “21st century skills” mean in 2022? Our short answer is that 21st century skills are anything relevant to being a successful, respectful, and responsible citizen today. The core of future-facing skills remains largely the same, as we can’t envision a future where critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication are not vital skills in all walks of life. But specific issues and the environments we learn in (whether in-person, hybrid, remote, or through the metaverse!) also shape 21st century learning. Those will keep changing as the years march on, and no one can say for sure what the future holds!
As the definition of 21st century skills continues to change and grow, so will educational games – if we, your favorite educational games studio, have anything to say about the matter! Game-based learning is an excellent way to enrich learners’ 21st century education. Are you interested in creating an educational game relevant to students right now? Send us a message today!
More on learning in the 21st century: