Connecting: Reflections on the Web-Conference Experience

The Roles and Trends Assignment for PIPD 3100 reflects 21st century skills as a trend in teaching and learning. These competencies – communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and information/communication technologies – refer to a broad set of knowledge, habits, and abilities that have been determined as essential skills as necessary in a global knowledge based era.

Upon reflecting on the experience, I noted the extent to which the assignment demanded the very skills we were researching. Rather than working independently, we utilized written (emails, blogging) and oral (dialogue, discussion) forms of communication to negotiate our topic and share our research. Similarly, instead of having a topic assigned to us, our critical thinking skills were tested as we explored current and emerging trends and how they impact the roles of adult educators. We collaborated by sharing knowledge, contributing our findings, and putting forward diverse resources, which resulted in much broader, nuanced understanding of the material than if we would have worked alone. For me the most exciting part of the experience was the opportunity to creatively share our findings. It wasn’t just an essay that was going to sit in my desk drawer once it had been marked. At the end of the assignment we had a very real product that we had constructed and could be shared with a broader audience. For a while now I have wanted to start a blog, and now I have a forum for working through some of my ideas, improving my writing in an informal way, and building a network of readers with diverse points of view. The whole process was facilitated through information and communication technologies: my partner and I utilized Skype technology to meet virtually and this very blog is being disseminated digitally to online communities.

One of the most significant things I learned from my partner was how important a different perspective can be. Often most of my discussions of the role of adult educators comes from others working within the same discipline. My learning partner’s viewpoint alerted me to some of the potential issues that may come with placing too much of an emphasis on these 21st century skills. We discussed the concerns associated with rapidly changing technologies and how they can be addressed in our respective learning environments. She and I shared our own unique challenges we face when attempting to integrate these skills into the curriculum and how we can effectively teach them. However, instead of being daunted, my learning partner and I emerged from the assignment excited about the possibilities and the potential for incorporating 21st century skills in our roles as adult educators.


Regardless of the framework, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are at the core of 21st century skills. In “Learning 21st Century skills requires 21st-century teaching,” Anna Rosefsky Saavedra and V. Darleen Opfer, encourage adult educators to not only teach technical skills, but also exploit technology to further support learning. They argue technology offers the potential to support the development of other skills, like communication, problem solving, and critical thinking, while allowing students to practice transferring skills in differing contexts. For Saavedra and Opfer, technology has not yet lived up to its great promise for education, “in part, because teachers have not had the opportunity to learn to maximize its pedagogical value” (p. 12).

This is precisely the case in art history classrooms. Of the 21st century skills, I am most interested in how I can utilize tools for working, to flip the classroom and move away from a lecture based mode of delivery. By assigning digital resources such as the Khan Academy for viewing outside of class time, I can utilize our weekly meetings for more project-based learning, where I can work closely with students either in groups or individually.

In more effectively using technology, I hope to further develop the student’s other 21st century skills. For example correctly using digital databases opens up an overwhelming access to information. Critical thinking skills are required to sort through the information to determine what is of value. For art historians viewing in the 21st century, developments in Information and Communication Technologies will have a profound impact on the ways we look, research, write and ultimately share our ideas.

Rosefsky Saavedra, A., & Opfer, V. (2012). Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(2), 8-13.

New Insights

In an article entitled “Learning 21st Century skills requires 21st-century teaching,” Anna Rosefsky Saavedra and V. Darleen Opfer outline nine lessons relative to the teaching of 21st century skills. These include: “make it relevant, teach through the disciplines, develop thinking skills, encourage learning transfer, teach students how to learn, address misunderstandings directly, treat teamwork like an outcome, exploit technology to support learning, and foster creativity” (2012).

What the authors call “making it relevant” is particularly important for adult educators. As expressed by Sharan B. Merriam and Laura L. Bierema, adult learners draw from a rich resource of experience (2014). It is therefore up to us to ensure that “subject matter is brought into the situation, is put to work, when needed” (Lindeman, 1926/1961, 8). This has inspired me to reconsider how I can make topics relevant, or put them to work to foster the development of 21st century competencies within the humanities. Equally important in the humanities, and my field in particular, is the ability to teach through the discipline. Not only do I want students to understand the content but also the historiography, or as Saavendra and Opfer note, “the production of knowledge within the discipline” (10).

At a time when very few of my students become “art historians,” it becomes increasingly important to teach the metacognitive skills associated with 21st century ways of thinking, such as critical thinking skills, flexibility of learning transfer, and the ability to learn independently. I am inspired by the fact that visual literacy appears on the many of the lists outlining competencies becoming more in demand. So to is creative thinking. In considering the role of educators in the development of skills like critical and creative thinking, Saavendra and Opfer emphasize the importance of teaching these processes. They are not innate characteristics – they can be developed when taught in a structured and intentional way (Robinson, 2001). With a great deal of self-reflexivity, and intention, I think adult educators have the opportunity to foster 21st century skills.

For some of the reading that has provided insight into the trend of 21st Century Skills.

Lindeman, E.C. (1926/1961). The Meaning of adult education in the United States. New York: Harvest House.

Merriam, S.B., & Bierema, L.L. (2014). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Robinson, K. (2001). Mind the gap: The creative conundrum. Critical Quarterly, 43 (1).

Rosefsky Saavedra, A., & Opfer, V. (2012). Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(2), 8-13.

Voogt, J., & Roblin, N. P. (2010). 21st century skills. Discussienota. Enschede: Universiteit Twente iov Kennisnet.