Your Kid’s Education Just Got Cooler With Tech

Have you heard of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, P21? Most haven’t, and yet there is evidence of it in kids’ school work every day. Twelve years ago a coalition came together to form a framework for 21st century skills in response to the rapid changes in technology of the last couple decades. With the help of teachers, education experts, and business leaders P21 understood that learning and innovation skills are increasingly recognized as essential in preparing kids for the complex life and work environments faced in the 21st century. From their research, P21 identified four key skills that were overwhelmingly agreed to be most important for a K12 education, and those have come to be known as the “4Cs.”

The 4Cs in Education

Creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration are essential to prepare students for the future. Sixty percent of the jobs people will do in the 21st Century do not yet exist. They will need to navigate a sea of information in order to find their careers. Their colleagues may be across the aisle or across the globe. While in many ways the global community has decreased the distance between people, information has expanded beyond comprehension. The professional world today’s kids will enter is one that demands, and will reward creativity, flexible thinking, on-the-job learning, and comfort with technology. Schools and teachers across the country have taken up the task of addressing these challenges by beginning to organize their curriculums around the 4Cs.

Comfort with technology comes with being allowed to be creative with it. Teachers are increasingly making the classroom a place where kids can use tech to creatively engage with learning on a deeper level than currently accustomed to. Students are learning the 4Cs through so many different tech modes at school: video, apps, blogs, engineering, art programs, etc. Look for it in collaborative problem solving through project-based learning, a trend toward open-ended questions to promote critical thinking, and a new emphasis on digital research.

How Tech Fosters Creativity

Creativity is about play and passion, getting messy. Allowing kids to act on their curiosity and experiment with tech provides learning experiences profoundly more deep than traditional approaches, and it fosters a growth mindset – one that’s comfortable thinking outside the box. Parents can reinforce these abilities at home with flexible use of technology, not just tech as “screen time.” Parents need to shift away from viewing computer screens like TVs, and recognize them for the tools they are. Consider tech more like a paintbrush. The best way to support kids’ creativity is to allow them to play with their ideas in an environment that supports curiosity and values learning from mistakes.

While the possibilities are limitless, there are some great ways kids can be creative with technology. These suggestions use tech to create and foster creativity:

  • Create your own games and stories with Scratch.
  • Design graphic art through apps: Canva and Pixton
  • Make music and collaborate online through Soundtrap and Soundation.  
  • Build an app after listening to this Ted Talk.
  • Learn to code.
  • Try brainstorming and mind-mapping: Use Popplet or Wisemapping to flesh out and articulate ideas for projects or school.

Learning is deepest when it’s reinforced both in and out of the classroom. Shifting the way we view tech at home can help. Encourage kids to get creative with technology, to use the vast technological resources out there to learn something, make something, and quite possibly shape the future.

Jenny Kepler, MA, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and writer who has been helping families navigate parenthood for over 10 years. Her office is in downtown Portland, OR where she does in person therapy with adults, couples and families. She also offers parent coaching over the phone for people who can’t see her in Portland.

Photo credit: r.nial.bradshaw via / CC BY

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