21st-Century Skills: Education Reform or Marketing Ploy?

Katie Ash, Education Week, Dec 07, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The Education Week article suggesting "21st century skills" constitute a marketing ploy is available only to paying subscribers. This is a blog summary of the article (ironically, also from Education Week; for an explanation of this apparent anomaly see the description of 'projection', below). For myself, I can't think of anything in the U.S. that doesn't have some group trying to commercialize it, so the existence of such a group here doesn't say much. Some of the rhetoric, though, is funny. Take this: "We've been promised this big revolution," he [Stephen Sawchuk, the author of the paywalled article] said, "and we haven't seen it yet. Technology, in the short range, has probably been overpromised."

What I wonder is, where has he been looking? Everywhere I look (save, perhaps, inside traditional schools, though there are numerous exceptions) the impact of modern technology has been more than a revolution. Nothing, it seems, is the same. From iPods to mobile phones, Facebook to MySpace, Smart boards to wireless mesh networks, binary arithmetic to logic and integrated circuits, the intellectual life of a child today is nothing like one of even a few years ago. We have gone from a three-channel universe to a million channels in less than a generation. How can anyone say there has been no revolution? How can anyone pretend learning is the same?
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