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Book report – 21st Century Skills Learning For Life In Our Times

After looking at several choices for books to read on this subject, I selected Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel’s book in digital format. I had hoped to find a book that provided a great overview of the topic as well as practical suggestions. This book did not disappoint. The prologue sets the tone with the title, “The Search for Innovative Learning,” that took us to Napa New Tech High School. They are famous for their project approach to learning. It was a fascinating glimpse into one school’s mission to keep the spirit of innovation and invention alive. My favorite focus word for the book also appears- balance.
The introduction to the book makes the case that the world has changed so much in the last few decades that learning and education have also changed. The authors then present a four question exercise that challenges the reader to explore past successes and future possibilities. The answers fuel the nine chapters of the book as they present a handy guidebook for the topic.
I liked the past and future comparisons that focused on the shift from the Industrial Age to the “Knowledge Age.” The statistic that stood out was that with new skills, the job shift will mean that people between the age of 18-42 will have 11 different jobs. It presents a powerful case for the shift from “brawn to brain” while retaining critical values and traditions. The key concept is again balance and learning balance.
Part Two outlines 21st Century skills that reminded me of traditional fundamental ideas with the addition of media literacy and applying technology effectively. The career and life skills section hit home with concepts that I would like to see my students master- initiative and self direction, accountability, and leadership.
Part Three puts the learning into practice with an in depth discussion of project and design based learning. There was a brief discussion of obstacles. Since the emphasis was very positive and directed, I think the obstacles were mentioned primarily in passing.
The creation of a productive, prepared student is a goal that educators have had for years. This book presented a new look at the challenges and the shift of ideas and tools that our students will face in the coming years.
The resources at the end of the book were very well organized. Section A was by chapter, section B was Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and section C was a summary of skill sets. The book was infused with diagrams and charts for those of us who like the visual as well as the text.
For those who are looking for a great overview of the topic with thought provoking ideas, I can highly recommend this book.

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