Application 4: Online Learning in K-12 Schools Podcast

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Evaluating 21st Century Skills

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, or P21, is an organization that promotes integrating technology into schools in order to prepare students for the "new literacies" that are becoming more prevalent in society (Miners and Pascopella 2007). This group sponsors a website of the same name that contains many resources for educators to use as they develop their technology integration skills for their own classrooms.

My initial reaction to the website was that it was neatly organized and visually appealing. It was very simple to navigate around the site and find what you are looking for. It was also excellent to see all of the tools and resources available to educators. I also found it pleasing to peruse the “In the News” section with the latest announcements regarding the progress of the partnership’s initiatives. I believe this website’s ease of use and visual appeal makes it one of the more exceptional education-related websites I have visited.

There were several pieces of information on the site that surprised me, but one item in particular. When I noticed the list of states that are considered “P21 Leadership States”, I noticed that my own state was not listed. I found this disturbing because I believe that my state needs to pay extra attention to 21st century skills. Montana is a very rural state with a total population under 1,000,000. Many of the students who graduate from high school will leave the state to go to college. In addition, many college students will leave the state upon graduation. If they leave the state unprepared for the workplace of the future, they will be left behind by their peers. “Students will spend their adult lives in a multitasking, multifaceted, technology-driven, diverse, vibrant world – and they must arrive equipped to do so” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills n.d.).

I found very little to disagree with on the P21 website. However, I was troubled to learn of the founding organizations of this website. Almost all of these organizations are based in technology. These companies have a tremendous stake in the future of technology integration in the classroom. They make their money from school districts and other companies who purchase their products, therefore it is imperative for them to make sure that as much technology as possible is used in the classroom. This makes me slightly uneasy because it produces a conflict of interest of sorts. How do we know if these companies are true proponents of education of merely thinking about their bottom line?

There are serious implications to our society if we do not begin to incorporate the initiatives of P21 in our schools. The workplace of the future will require certain skills such as “information literacy, critical thinking, communication skills, problem solving, and information technology skills” (Laureate 2008). The 21st century skill levels of future workers will be “a critical factor in the generation of national wealth” (Bates and Phelan 2002). Many of the occupations that have historically provided the most jobs are on the decline. In addition, the occupations that are on the rise are those in technology related fields that require many of the skills mentioned previously. If students of today are not gaining the skills necessary to be successful in the future, they will struggle to find jobs that will enable them to support a family and create personal wealth. (Levy and Murnane 2004).

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a valuable organization that will keep putting pressure on states to realize the importance of technology in the classroom. Many states have already dedicated resources to this cause, but many more have not. It is up to educators and friends of education to join with P21 in the fight for a change in thinking regarding educational philosophy. The status quo is no longer acceptable if we as a nation want to compete with the rest of the world in the workplace of the future.


Bates, R., & Phelan, K. (2002). Characteristics of a globally competitive workforce. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4(2), 121

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). 2008. Skills for the 21st Century [Motion picture]. Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society. Baltimore: Author.

Levy, F., & Murnane, R. (2006). Why the changing American economy calls for twenty-first century learning: Answers to educators' questions. New Directions for Youth Development, 2006(110), 53–62.

Miners, Z., & Pascopella, A. (2007). The new literacies. District Administration, 43(10), 26–34.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (n.d.). A report and mile guide for 21st century skills. Washington DC: Author. Retrieved from


  1. Jody,

    I share your concern regarding the business aspects of the web site. It does seem rather self-serving and as you said, driven by the bottom line. It could be a situation in which the ends justify the means, but I hate to think that school districts could be taken advantage of in their dedication to incorporate 21st Century Skills. I also noticed that most of the links that I found went to products for purchase rather than free-use ideas and lessons. Like you, I admire the goals of the Partnership, but I do find the affiliations somewhat unnerving. The cross company partnership members, i.e. Apple and Microsoft, make me feel that a communal effort is truly the goal.

    The ability to compete on a global market is probably the most important outcome of the incorporation of 21st Century skills. You outlined some of the demographics of your state to highlight the importance of building these skills. As Drs. Dede and Thornburg have expressed, with technology, most jobs can be done anywhere and at anytime (Laureate, 2008). As you stressed the importance of building and keeping a workforce in your state, technology is the way that we can sustain our local and state economies.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts


    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). 2008. Skills for the 21st Century [Motion picture]. Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society. Baltimore: Author.

  2. Jody,

    I too noticed that the contributing companies had a conflict of interest when it came to this large scale initiative to get more technology in the classroom. They most definitely have something to gain financially if states start pushing for these 21st century skills and technologies.

    The one thing I concluded is that regardless of their intentions for pushing the incorporation of technology in today's schools, they are right as far as these skills being a necessity for the future generations. My hope is that these companies are not in it primarily for the profits, and they are going to make concessions and reduce prices for school in order to get their products into American schools so that we can teach these 21st century skills.