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14 Feb 2017

6 Essential 21st Century Skills for Today’s Students


6 Essential 21st Century Skills for Today’s Students

Being a student isn’t the same as it was. Back in the day, you needed to be good at navigating libraries, remembering obscure references in books you read decades ago and how to write great essays by hand. Those skills have gone out of the window. They’ve been replaced by an entirely new set of skills to deal with the host of new problems and solutions that have cropped up.

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In this article, I’m going to highlight a few of them. Because, as they say, the first step to dealing with a problem is to know it exists.

Online research

Online research is complete, entirely unlike paper-based library research. In library research, it was all about making the best of a limited set of information. After all, most libraries only have a few thousand books. The tricks were figuring out how the librarian had stored the information that was available in their libraries. That meant knowing the book titles or, failing that, searching through categories and (if you were lucky) a few keywords.

That’s not how online research works. The information available online is pretty much limitless. If it’s known, there is probably an article about it. The problem is, how do you find it? What combination of keywords and phrases will get you to that document?

And can you trust what you find?

Want to know more about this skill? Well, do some research!

Avoid distraction

Never before has it been as easy to be distracted as it is today. It’s not just that there is so much out there to do, it’s also so darned easy to do it! Most of the content is just a few clicks away! The thing is, distractions and the procrastination that comes with them (not to mention multitasking in general) cut into productivity like high powered lasers cut through the snow.

And so, you’ve got to learn how to stop yourself from getting distracted. Of course, there are some very valuable tools out there to help you in that regard.

That way you can focus your willpower on keeping working.

Course, if you install that then you’re going to need to learn the skill of using that tool correctly, but you can’t win them all.

Adaptability

With technological progress in overdrive, jobs are disappearing and reappearing at speeds we’ve never seen before. This can be an opportunity or a disaster, depending on whether you have the right skill or not.

What is that skill? Adaptability.

If you can quickly see what’s coming and adapt yourself to ride that wave like some super surfer, then you can exploit new technologies and opportunities and get into new fields before they’ve been saturated with new talent. In that way, you can position yourself to truly excel.  

If you can’t do that, however, and you aren’t suitably adaptable, then it’s likely indeed that somewhere along the way, you’re going to miss the boat, your job is going to end up being done by a machine and you don’t have the skillset to find something new to do.

Yes, that is tough, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Creativity

Creative thought is another vital skill nowadays. And that’s not just to paint that painting or write that poem either. Creativity is in all fields. It isn’t just something for the arts, it’s something that we find in science, in management and even in project work.

Computers will become ever better at repetitive tasks. They’re taking over such things as accounting and basic news article writing. Heck, in a few years I’m sure even writing services will start having essays writing up by computers. That kind of stuff is going to be easy for computers to do in less time than you might think.

One thing that they will not be able to do anywhere soon is write creatively, or offer up creative and out-of-the-box solutions to the problems around us.  

Critical thinking

Then there’s critical thinking. Want to make sure that will take as long as possible for the machines to take over your job? Then choose a job that includes the need for you to think critically. This is a skill that machines really struggle at, as they don’t yet know how to decide what is important and what isn’t.

So far they’re just information crunchers (and that will probably stay that way for a long time to come). They struggle with attributing value and analyzing problems with any sort of emotional or human content.  

In fact, if you can excel at critically analyzing information, then not only will your job not disappear, but you’ll be capable of taking positions high up the value chain. And that is obviously what we’d all prefer to be doing.

Team Work

In time gone by, it was possible for one person to know nearly everything within the field of human discovery. That’s no longer possible. The more we know, the more we need to specialize in order for one person to be at the cutting edge of the field that they’re in.

This specialization means, however, that ever person’s knowledge is becoming ever narrower – meaning that we have to work in ever bigger teams in order to bring products to market, solve problems or complete projects.

And that requires people to be ever better at working in teams. The loner genius bringing new ideas to market is dead. It’s now teamed that will excel.

Last words

I’m sure by the middle of this century these skills will have once again changed. There will be a whole host of new technologies that we’ll need to master and understand just to stay afloat. That’s both scary and exhilarating.

Scary in that we might be the ones that go under. Exhilarating in that it might be us riding that wave to new highs. The question is whether you’ll learn to swim in this new world of new possibilities. If you learn the skills I’ve outlined above, the there is a good chance that that will be exactly what you’ll be capable of doing.


About the Author: Janet Anthony is a blogger from Kansas City who has been writing professionally for five years now. She mostly writes about blogging, writing tips, and education system. Her motto is “What you do today can improve all your tomorrows”. Find Janet here: twitter, facebook

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