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21st Century technology development has triggered a new educational concept composed of new learning styles and requirements, and with several tools and resources intended to significantly improve students learning. Almost all of them were not conceivable in the early 90’s.

At the same time, students are referred to as ‘digital natives’ due mostly to their capacity to learn and interact with new technologies and devices ever since they are very young. I have seen several examples of one year old kids making use of Tablets in a very impressive way, without ever being taught to do so. This is meaningful and makes us realize that things are changing and that educators cannot continue teaching in the same way they were educated.

21st Century is also conveying other sets of new concepts, not only in education but also in the work place. The quantity of new careers in Universities is impressive, so is the variety in job positions. I remember when I was in school, there were only a few careers offered, now the options are much wider.

With all these new approaches and concepts available, there is something that has caught very much my attention, and is the fact that employers are now looking not just for University accreditations or experience in the particular field, but also for employees with a specific set of skills. Most of those new required skills are becoming part of the standards for students in many schools around the world.

Among the most recognizable are the ones created at ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), which are: communication and collaboration, creativity and innovation, research and information, critical thinking, digital citizenship, and technology operations.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers rate ability to work in teams, ability to verbally communicate with others in the organization, ability to make decisions and solve problems, ability to obtain and process information, ability to plan, organize and prioritize work, as very important skills and qualities candidates must have when applying for a position. Technical knowledge related to the job emerges after all of these.

Without a doubt developing these soft skills is essential for a student to succeed not only in college but also in the work environment. Educational technology approaches such as Blended Learning or technology integration in education should collaborate and assist in these endeavors. Based on the evidence presented by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the question that surfaces is if having those skills is more important than the core subject’s content itself. Probably, in careers not related to health and law yes; however, there has to be a balance between skills and content to be nurtured together through the school and college years.

According to Belanca & Brandt (2010,p.20) 21st Century Skills Rethinking How Students Learn, a 21st century education must be tied to outcomes in terms of proficiency in core subject knowledge and soft skills that are expected and highly valued in school, work and community settings.

A good combination of both skills and content will outfit the path for students’ success in the future. Conversely, my perception is that developing 21st century skills might be a little bit more important for the reason that students will be prepared to communicate ideas, collaborate with others, solve problems, analyze and think critically, work in teams being creative and innovative, and through this approach definitely become much more competitive.

References

ISTE (2011) ISTE.International Society for Technology in Education. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards/standards-for-students  (Accessed: February 22, 2016)

NACE (2011) The National Association of Colleges and Employers [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.naceweb.org/Default.aspx (Accessed: February 22, 2016)

Belanca & Brandt (2011) ‘21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn’. Solution Tree Press. United States of America.

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