The Way It Is ala Alvin Toffler

The Way It Should Be in the 21st Century

Globalization and advancements in technology are driving changes the in the social, technological, economic, environmental and political landscapes at a rate and magnitude too great, too multiple to ignore (Burchsted, 2003). Preparing today’s youth to succeed in the digital economy requires a new kind of teaching and learning. Skills such as global literacy, computer literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation have become critical in today’s increasingly interconnected workforce and society (eSchool News).

The new kind of learning requires a new learning skill set. The multiple intelligences theory, popular in the latter part of the 20th century is transforming into one that matches a digital world. Verbal intelligence, typically a linear process, is transitioning into information literacy. Visual intelligence is becoming visual literacy. Interpersonal intelligence is transitioning into the skills related to social networking, Existential intelligence will become more refined as individuals explore the meaning of their lives.

Informational and Media Literacy.

This is the ability to access information, critically evaluate information, and use information accurately and creatively. It includes using digital technology, communication tools and/or networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge economy (Partnership for the 21st Century, 2002). Learners have to be able to judge the validity of information coming in, decipher context, determine the source, and separate opinion from fact (Shore, 2008) along with the ability to create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts (National Council of Teachers of English).

Critical Thinking.

Critical thinking means exercising sound reasoning and making complex choices and decisions (Partnership for the 21st Century). Critical thinking means not only perceiving various perspectives but also filtering out irrelevant or distracting data, and evaluating what information makes the most sense (Shore, 2008).

Visual Literacy.

In an interconnected world, children must become fluent in the use of many symbolic systems and communication tools, particularly visual means of expression skills (Shore, 2008). The learning of visual literacies as indispensable to life in the information age. Learners will need develop visual literacies in order to survive and communicate in a highly complex world (Visual Literacy).

Creating and Designing.

Creating and Designing involves demonstrating originality and inventiveness, developing, implementing and communicating new ideas, being open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives, and acting on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the domain in which the innovation occurs. Learners can experience digital tools of designers, creators, and inventors. of processes that are likely to yield desired results.. Resnick (2002) believes that “success in the future will be based not on how much we know but on our ability to think and act creatively” (p. 36).

Self Identity and Self-Authenticity

With digital tools, users take things apart and put them together in new, ever more ingenious ways. Web 2.0 applications encourage them to alter encyclopedia entries, remix stories or novels into new multimedia forms, and reassemble elements of other people’s designs into new creations (Shore, 2008).

Educational Networking and Collaboration.

Collaboration involves working effectively with diverse teams, making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal, and assuming shared responsibility for collaborative work (Partnership for 21st Learning). Collaboration involves building relationships with others to pose and solve problems
cross-culturally (National Council of Teachers of English). In the world of social networking, social and communication skills are needed to respond to and improve on others’ ideas, designs, or creations. As they engage with others in group interpretation, they need to negotiate shared understandings and problem-solving strategies. Today’s elementary school children are growing up at a time when knowledge development is a group endeavor. Collaboration no longer calls for expensive equipment and specialized expertise. Web tools for collaboration are small, flexible, and free, and require no installation (Horizon Report, 2008) They allow participants to engage in real-time collaboration and to co-construct solutions to problems. The process is increasingly participatory, democratic, and resistant to external control. (Shore, 2008).

Global Awareness and Socialization.

In an interconnected world, people need to understand how the things that people think, decide, do, and create are connected and how they affect each other, across geographic, socio- economic, and across disciplinary boundaries. geography, world history, and sometimes one or more foreign languages. (Shore, 2008). Global socialization involves learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts. Learners need to gain skills for esigning and sharing information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes (National Council of Teachers of English).


Pink (2006) refers to synthesis as symphony, the ability to merge data and facts and detect underlying trends and harmony. Synthesis, not analysis, combining the pieces into an arresting new whole will be a key skill for the 21st century learning.

Parallel Information Processing.

Some researchers have associated young people's digital media experiences with a heightened ability to process information in a parallel rather than linear fashions. That is, digital media users are better able to access information randomly rather than relying on a step-by-step presentation., “The digital generation has an ever increasing capacity for parallel processing which involves a more diversified form of concentration — probably less intense, and less centered on a single aspect” (Gros, 2003). This necessitates the ability for learners to manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information (National Council of Teachers of English).

Interpersonal Awareness and Empathy.

Empathy encompasses the ability to stand in another person's shoes. It will be a distinguishing characteristic of those who thrive (Pink, 2005). Many online games, simulations, and other activities involve storylines that challenge young people to assume a variety of roles developing an increased sense of empathy (Gros, 2003).

Personal Accountability and Ethics.

Learners of the 21st century need to demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior and act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind (Partnership for the 21st Century). Learners have an increased ability to attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments (National Council of Teachers of English).

The 21st Century Learner

. . . and aren't we all 21st Century Learners?