We've looked at what the Iowa Core says, but Stephen Downes puts this discussion in better perspective. Here is what he says are the 10 most important skills to learn today:
1. How to predict consequences
2. How to read
3. How to distinguish truth from fiction
4. How to empathize
5. How to be creative
6. How to communicate clearly
7. How to learn
8. How to stay healthy
9. How to value yourself
10. How to live meaningfully
Succinctly, I like this list. For starters, I can't argue with anyone of the items. When a student responds to a lesson on anti-derivatives or the downfall of the Ottoman Empire with the words "when are we going to need to know this", they might have a point. Not so with these skills. Every student needs to know these 10, be them college bound or not.
But there are two other reasons I like this list. One, it identifies true skills that can be integrated across the curriculum. As a principal, I can realistically expect my physical education teacher to teach these 10, just like I can expect my math teacher to. Can't say the same about financial literacy.
And two, the skills are easy to understand. They are not written in the vagueries of standards and benchmarks. And Downes breaks down each skill to show what it is, how we learn it today, what to watch for in the classroom, and how new technology supports it.
Our biggest challenge with the Iowa Core is to help teachers understand how to teach 21st century skills. This should be the start of our discussion.