What Are They?
T-Skills are not new. They comprise a set of higher-order skills and dispositions that have been identified as required for success in today’s complex, rapidly-changing, interdependent, technology-driven society. These skills have been articulated into frameworks by numerous national and international educational organizations for over a decade [AACU] (2007), Educational Testing Service [ETS] (2007), International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE] (2007), North Central Regional Educational Laboratory [NCREL] (2003), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] ( 2005), Partnership for 21st Century Skills [P21] (2006); State Educational Technology Directors Association [SETDA] (2001), etc. in an effort to foster educational innovation in support of these skills.
Learning and Innovation Skills
While organized in slightly different ways, these individual frameworks are found to be generally consistent with each other (Dede, 2010) in their emphasis on creativity & innovation, critical thinking & problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. In addition to gaining disciplinary expertise, learners need to practice these skills in the activities and assessments they engage in.
Information, Media, and Technology Skills
The need for ongoing information, media, and ICT literacies are a direct result of technologies changing the way we communicate, interact, and work together. To practice these literacies learners need to be required to research, communicate, and collaborate using a variety of media as well as become producers of media products.
Life and Career Skills
Arguably some of the most important 21st century skills are those that set us apart form the machine. Being able to live and work in today’s rapidly changing, globalized, interconnected and interdependent world requires collaboration, social and cross-cultural skills, adaptability and self-regulation, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility.
To develop these inter and intra-personal skills, learners need to practice working in collaboration with others, explore cultural differences and perspectives, develop self-reflective practices, appreciate that all knowledge comes with lenses, and grapple with the complexity inherent in our diverse, interconnected, and interdependent world (Lynch, Russell, Evans, & Sutterer, 2009).
21st Century Themes
Last, 21st Century themes such as global awareness, financial-economic-business-entrepreneurial-civic (FEBE) literacy, health literacy, and environmental literacy are needed to understand and respond to the issues facing today’s globalized, interconnected, and interdependent societies. Incorporating 21st themes into the curriculum helps foster the system’s thinking and transdisciplinary mindset that helps us understand today’s complex world.
Together, these skills make a compelling appeal for the rethinking of pedagogies in order to foster them (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007; Bellanca, 2010; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2008).