Article Review 3: 21st Century Competencies

Voogt, J., Erstad, O., Dede, C., & Mishra, P. (2013). Challenges to learning and schooling in the digital networked world of the 21st Century. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29, 403-413. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcal.12029/full

To delve more into the issues raised in this week’s readings about how the 21st Century classroom needs to change to benefit today’s learners, I searched for an article that discusses the competencies that today’s curricula should be targeting. I found a recent article by Voogt, Erstad, Dede, & Mishra (2013) regarding “information and communication technologies” (ICT). The focus of the paper is this list of competencies: “collaboration, communication, digital literacy, citizenship, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and productivity” (p. 404, italics original). The authors note that these competencies are not unique to the 21st Century but “take on new dimensions in 21st century virtual interaction” (p. 405).

Many of the tools we have available today can be used in the service of building multiple competencies. Voogt et al. (2013) state that “Web 2.0 technology enables users to produce and share content in new ways” and “Digital camera and different software tools make it easier for students to show their work and reflect on it.” When I read this, I made a connection to how things are changing in the assessment of learning, and not just learning itself. I would have loved to see a deeper discussion in the article of how we alter our evaluation tools to determine progress on these competencies. The authors note that our assessments must change along with our teaching methods, but give no suggestions for how. With the current climate of controversy surrounding testing in K-12, we really need more people working on defensible, sensible assessment tools that keep up with change.

The memory that spurred the connection was from attending a conference presentation in which an evaluator described how, instead of using a traditional pencil-and-paper survey to assess childrens’ change in knowledge during a gardening program, she incorporated digital imagery. She compared before-and-after results of photographs students took when asked at the beginning and end of the program to take pictures of what “gardening” meant to them and what a “garden” looks like. I was fascinated by this methodology. Sometimes our learners may not yet have the vocabulary to explain what they’re thinking, but they can show us if we give them the tools.

Voogt et al. (2013) also tout the utility of “augmented reality” as a learning tool because it affords teachers “the ability to create activities not possible in the real world, such as interacting with a (simulated) chemical spill in a busy public setting,” which in turn “builds skills such as collaborative inquiry” (p. 406). My mind was immediately taken to the sci-fi example of Star Trek cadets participating in the Kobayashi Maru. No matter how descriptively written, case studies in books can seem a bit stale or distant. When you can take that case study and introduce moving elements like video or 3D representations, you are likely capturing more attention. I do like the idea of asking students to imagine a scenario themselves. BUT if you are trying to teach a specific lesson, it may actually control for a lot of noise by providing the visuals for them and getting students to focus on the problem-solving task.

The authors end with a set of recommendations, but they are mostly a reiteration of the importance of digital literacy and other competencies without any suggestions of how to ensure their inclusion or success in today’s curriculum. I think Voogt et al. (2013) provide a nice literature review related to the need for and benefits of aiming for the competencies they present. But I already agreed these things were important before this article. Folks have been writing about these ideas for quite a while (our reading for this week, written 7 years earlier, mentions some of the same benefits of going beyond traditional lecture). I’m hoping to find other articles in the future that provide more of a road map for how to move us closer to these goals.

2 thoughts on “Article Review 3: 21st Century Competencies

  1. Owen

    “She compared before-and-after results of photographs students took when asked at the beginning and end of the program to take pictures of what “gardening” meant to them and what a “garden” looks like. I was fascinated by this methodology.” – I’m fascinated by this exercise as well. Really cool.

    So, overall, worth the read? Worth the journal space? How do you regard the scholarship?

    Reply
    1. Alda Post author

      It’s worth the read if you are just looking for a general overview on the subject. It turned out to be more of a literature review than an actual analysis. That was my main criticism, which I didn’t really bring up until the end. I was hoping for more ideas on how to teach or recruit for these competencies. We can all agree that digital literacy is necessary in today’s learning environments. So what do we do to help develop that in learners? I think this is a situation indicative of the fact that when you separate the academic world into silos we end up with a lot of articles on the same subjects that don’t always advance our knowledge further. You’ve got someone writing today about what other people already pointed out 7 years ago in a differnet journal. It’s time to go beyond arguing the importance of it and start researching and defending practices.

      Reply

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