21st Century skills are People-based before they’re Tech-based

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know I write about 21st century learning and try to do so from not just a technology perspective. I’ve recently posted on key competencies and new technologies and thought I’d use this post to highlight how important it is to understand how they are intrinsically linked.

Walk before you can Run

How many times have you seen an email at work cause problems between staff? Email has this amazing capacity to be sent with a smile and read with a frown. You send some information, thinking you’re being helpful, and it arrives as if it’s barking orders and angers the recipient. We may have all sent thousands of emails but the basic ‘How to successfully email” still eludes many attempts to communicate. Often a technology seems to imply it will naturally solve a problem but my suggestion is that unless you work to overtly develop general people-skills and collate tools and instructions on basic behaviour and aims, technology can cause harm or certainly waste time as much as it can help.

Getting your money’s worth

It’s the same in classrooms. To get the most from the technology, teachers first have to consider providing tools (instructional games, strategies, and objects) to ensure the aims and rules that guide successful use of such tech are fully understood. Too many students around the world produce slide after slide in Powerpoint or Keynote without ever discussing (or caring in some cases) about what makes successful communication when using slides, or in fact why they’ve chosen to use slides in the first place. Most slides produced in schools never even get presented to an audience, so why slides?

Another example is the numerous Google Hangouts I’ve had as professional meetings. Like normal face-to-face meetings they often fall flat in regards to being truely productive because nobody is following rules of engagement. Learning when to speak, when to listen, and how to record and act upon the conversation should be the first concern of any meeting but this doesn’t stop both Skype calls and more traditional meetings turning into general chat. Without guidelines and practice in thinking, communication, relating to others, and self-management, schools are not getting the most from the often expensive investment in technology.

A personal toolbox

There’s rarely only one way to achieve a goal and this means that multiple approaches to get the most from tech are often available. The best thing a teacher can do is to design or research all approaches and behavioural tools available as if it were a classroom library of “how-to’ key competencies.

Help is at hand

Here is a teacher-made slideshow of tools that they felt might help in those key competencies, so as to get the most from both technology and class time in general. There’s more information on Key Competencies in my book A Learner’s Paradise.