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.