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Job Skills? Try World Peace Skills

This month's cover story focuses on the urgent need for US schools to graduate students who are prepared for 21st century jobs with a solid foundation in the "four C's"-- critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. "We need to be more purposeful in embedding these kinds of skills into educational landscapes," says Tim Magner, executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

The article also makes the case that schools need better access to 21st century literacy tools, namely digital technologies. Hard to argue with that.

Yet, consider that this may be the first generation of educators whose students know more about their literacy tools than their teachers. When monks taught writing, they were also the experts on the quill, but today's teachers are more likely to be taught by their students on how to set up a blog.

Susan Metros, deputy CIO at the University of Southern California, acknowledges this irony in her own teaching career in graphic arts. Her toolbox migrated from pen and ink to Adobe Illustrator to HTML, at which point she realized that her students could out-code her. But, she says, "They may be able to program, but they still need to learn how to see. That's my job."

Isn't that the job of all educators: to teach students how to see the world and the productive roles they can play in it?

Critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity aren't just job skills-- they are life skills, and maybe even more than that. After watching the movie World Peace and Other 4th Grade Matters I could argue that these are skills that wilsave our planet.

The movie follows an amazing fourth-grade class in Charlottesville, VA, that spent six weeks playing the World Peace Game. A political simulation created by their teacher, the awe-inspiring John Hunter,World Peace Game has students take on roles of leaders of nations and global organizations to negotiate and navigate througha series of crises to achieve one goal: worldpeace. (The movie is not yet released; formore information on this deeply worthy project, go here.)

The most high-tech tool Hunter uses is apointer to move toy armies around the map.Could the game be even more powerful if itwere an online digital simulation? Sure. Butwas it teaching the four C's? You bet it was.

At one point in the movie the studentsapproach Hunter and say they need a globalwarming crisis. A world peace simulationisn't realistic, they insist, unless they are confronting that issue as well. I counted allfour C's (and one more, compassion) in force at that moment.

The need for 21st century skills extendsbeyond job readiness and directly impactsglobal survival. And while technology is important toward that end, we cannot get there without teachers who can help students learn to see.

About the Author

Therese Mageau is the former editorial director of THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].