Teaching 21st-century skills is essential for 21st-century learners. That is the truth of it. Content knowledge is important, but soft skills are as well. As the world around us transforms, the value of and need for particular skills shifts.
Why are 21st century skills important for 21st-century learners? In short, soft skills are essential for modern day life and the workplace. Therefore, teaching 21st century skills to students, in my opinion, is as important as teaching content. But why?
Let me paint you a little picture...
I am never the most tech savvy person in the room. There is so much out there and it's always evolving. It's tough to know where to start and just when I feel I've gotten it, everything changes. Education technology can be intimidating and time-consuming to learn. Time isn't something teachers have in abundance.
I get a lot of questions about self-directed project-based learning. I think the benefits of project-based learning hook people, but the execution or facilitation is daunting.
Self-directed project-based learning is when students design the project-based learning experience based on their interests, skills, challenges, goals, and more. It is customized and personalized PBL.
The bulk of my experience as an educator was at a school that was student-centered, travel-encouraged, and predominantly project-based. Combine all three and you have student-directed school trips. The benefits of educational travel are enormous! I highly encourage reading on!
My husband and I made an educational travel goal of visiting every US national park as a family before our children turn 18. We have been to so so many great ones - Zion, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains, Pictured Rocks National Park, The Badlands, and Rocky Mountains National Park - but we still have a long way to go!
I have been involved in educational travel for over a decade - traveling myself, coordinating our high school's travel program, and now building resources for and offering tips to homeschool traveling families, summer high school travel programs, school travel programs, youth groups, and more. This passion and love for learning through travel started in Costa Rica.
The benefits of educational travel are invaluable. I have seen the impact that travel has on students from school travel groups, traveling homeschool families, and youth groups. I have experienced this impact personally and have watched how travel has affected my own children.
What is personalized teaching?
In short, personalized teaching is offering personal learning / customized learning opportunities for each student. Learning experiences are based around every students' unique background, interests, strengths, challenges, goals, and more.
If you were to ask me, "how can I make my summer school session fun and engaging?" (and not just fun and engaging for the kids), I would say, "make personalized, self-directed project-based learning the foundation of the session".
It doesn't matter what subject you teach, if you're a classroom teacher or a home educator, if you're a rural or urban educator. My answer would be the same across the board. No question.
To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.