THIS is a 21st Century Skill

I’ve struggled with the term 21st Century skill since many of these skills have been around for a long time. It’s not a discussion I’m passionate about but sometimes I’m struck but the clarity of a skill that is clearly new to this century.

Video is indeed a 21st century skill. Take the recent contest for the Best Job in the World. Applicants were charged with creating a one minute video as their application. The ones highlighted on Presentation Zen are impressive. But Stephen Downes nails it,

They are, of course, creative and imaginative and effective. Now for the kicker: ten years ago, not one student in a hundred, nay, one in a thousand, could have produced videos like this. It’s a whole new skill, a vital and important skill, and one utterly necessary not simply from the perspective of creating but also of comprehending video communication today. Some people out there argue that such skills (a) are old hat, and (b) not worth teaching. The world is passing such critics by, and they should not be heeded.

Our schools need to re-evaluate how much time we spend on print alone and start broadening our focus. Joe Brennan, among others, does a great job connecting the dots between writing and video. Unfortunately, most of our educators have difficulty understanding the value and nuances of creating and viewing effective video. Even more unfortunate are those who think of video as faddish or no different than teaching writing. While there are similarities, there are enough differences that it requires teacher training to make it as required as learning how to teach writing.  I’ve been using video in the classroom and making movies for the past 10 years and I know I’m far from being an expert. 95% of our teachers I’m guessing know less than I do.

How long will it be until employers will ask applicants to submit a video? Not just for unique and quirky jobs like an Australian tourism promoter but for teachers, lawyers, managers. Any job that features communication as a primary skill, will ask future employees to present themselves in this way.

Here’s my favourite from the contest. A Canadian of course.

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  • Jeff

    Excellent post Dean. Thought-provoking. It seems like the gap – between what we routinely do in school and what we could/should be doing – continues to grow.

    Listened to a conversation about handwriting and penmanship the other day. Some lament the decline, others liken it to the inevitable march of technology and new tools for living our daily lives.

    You’re right – producing a high quality multimedia project (like Anny’s wonderful video) is easier than ever. Tools like iMovie are easy enough to use. We really need educational leaders that see this and get it.

    Obama – our first wired president – is giving a major speech on education today.

  • I agree, and it’s a skill I keep trying to develop in myself–practice what you preach! My kids–9 & 13–get little of this in school, but they have both created video on their own, because a) we have the equipment and b) they have parents who encourage this kind of creativity. I fear that two gaps exist–1) kids who have access to the equipment, but have parents who discourage this kind of activity and 2) kids who don’t have access. Schools could play a big role, not just in teaching these skills, but in providing access and encouragement so that posting things to YouTube isn’t seen as subversive or dangerous as long as it’s done responsibly.

    Lauras last blog post..Money Can Buy Happiness

  • Dean, it’s hard to project just how much this type of skill will become necessary and commonplace, but I think it is safe to say that kids and adults alike need to become well-versed and flexible in the ways that they can communicate in order to stay competitive and relevant. If we stay stuck in 20th century modes of communication, I think we shortchange ourselves, and for those of us who are teachers, our own students. Blogs, wikis, video, audio, podcasting, vodcasting, Twitter, social networking, Ustream, … it is all about communicating with others. For example, college admissions are already using video conferencing to interview perspective applicants, for example.

    If we think the handshake is the deal closer, I think we are missing a very present reality out there right now. It’s not the future. It’s the present.

    Steve Ransoms last blog post..You can’t water plants with empty buckets!

  • I very much agree about the likely future uses of videos as standard in job applications in many fields. College applications, too – why not?

    I am scrambling to catch up on the technology (acquired a Flip Mino HD recently, for example) being up to now more confident in text and audio. One of the programmes I teach in at the college level, International Studies, has a final oral exam. I am advocating recording these (and a Flip is perfect, since it is unobtrusive) and will be using video recordings to help students prepare for the exam. Otherwise some programmes, such as Community Studies, make extensive use of video. But it is far from ubiquitous on campus and not (yet) seen as a medium in which we should aspire to at least basic literacy and fluency for all our students. Some students come to us with skills developed from making their own YouTube content in high school, but not many. I guess we’re all playing catch-up.

  • Thanks for the nod, Dean, and you are right on the money! Aside from being able to create exciting learning opportunities, students do also become better consumers of what they watch. And as for penmanship, that reminds me of the Middle Ages lament that books for everyone would be a blow to memorization skills and the demise of Latin would be the end of scholarly discourse.
    P.S. Are Flip cams really banned in Canada because they don’t provide instructions in French?

    Joe Brennans last blog post..Taking Chance

  • You are right on the money in asserting that video-making needs to be taught as an essential skillset in today’s world. In terms of priority, I believe it is right up there with reading and writing. For some learners, it may be even more important. There are learners in every classroom who, for a variety of reasons, will never be able to communicate effectively in writing. Some of these non-writers may well be gifted communicators with alternative media such as video. Because each learner has a unique combination of learning style, learning needs, and learning challenges, we need to be careful to introduce multiple ways for all learners to show what they know and to be creative.

    Paul Hamiltons last blog post..Readability–without distracting web page clutter!

  • @Steve

    I would make a clear distinction between the blogs, wikis, twitter examples because they are for the most part text based. That’s a much easier transition from our current curricula. The ability to tell a story visually requires much more practice and understandings than are currently present in most K-20 educations. Video is clearly a genre that needs purposeful instruction.

    We use Flips all the time. That story is news to me.

  • Bernadette Rego

    Hi Dean,

    I enjoyed reading your post and couldn’t agree more that we need to address how often we are using print-based communication. With various tools now available to facilitate communication with one another, I think as educators we should take time to “tinker” with them more often.

    I think a good starting place would be in our professional development workshops. I would like to see more facilitators come to conferences and schools to give teachers a safe place to try out these tools at their own comfort levels.

    This post reminded me of when my grades 6/7 students created films using iMovie for their country projects. The movie I liked best of all was one that only consisted of images, music particular to the country they researched, and titles (i.e. culture, religion, education, etc.) The images used conveyed more than even the spoken or written word alone could have. I was moved by the music as they chose pieces that fit beautifully with the scenes. That experience made me realize how profound images and music alone can be to convey messages and share information.

  • I enjoyed this post, Dean.

    I’m a preservice teacher and recently, when planning a hypothetical unit plan, I wanted to include some video production by students. A few of the comments I received:

    “You’ll never have time for that.”

    “Schools don’t have money for cameras.”

    “Good thing this is a hypothetical.”

    I wish more people saw the importance of these sort of skills – I wish I had these skills!

    Mary Worrells last blog post..I switched to Diigo

  • The way you framed this is excellent. Obviously, I do have some strong feelings about the use of the term 21st Century, but I absolutely believe what you have here is a true example of a skill that is emerging and specifically unique to our modern, 21st century construct of learning. Yes, students have created videos in the past, but as you mentioned, not in the way you evidenced here in the post. I wish we wouldn’t confuse the issue for educators, and that we’d start calling these new skills that are emerging 21st Century, and leave the skills that have always been paramount for learning something else…Foundational Learning Skills, perhaps, but some other nomenclature that provides clarity rather than confusion.

    Great post, and great video, even for a Canadian.

    Ben Greys last blog post..Conference Connections, or Lack Thereof

  • Dean,

    I agree with much of what you said about the use of video in the digital age. I have actually been working on a video resume for my next job. It is going slowly, but I think it is a key ingredient in presenting yourself these days.

    I sent a request to many of my former bosses asking for a quick video reference letter, and they responded as if I were crazy. Many were hesitant to go “live” online.

    What I find fascinating though is that although you said, “Our schools need to re-evaluate how much time we spend on print alone and start broadening our focus…”

    It appears that the Edtech world is still behind the times as well. I would like to see more non-textual content created by the Ed Tech community itself. I think Jim Groom does a great job of putting himself and his ideas out there via video and other media, but most Ed Tech blogs are still quiet text rich.

    It is not much, but here is some work I have done in the field:

    Would love to see more from the community! How many teachers have a Youtube channel where they present their own work? What kind of work do they produce and share?

  • I am not fond of reading, so whenever I don’t know something, I would search Youtube for tutorial videos.
    Video is indeed 21st Century skill.

  • Interesting. It does seem feasible that employers looking for new employees might one day ask for a video in addition to a resume, or instead of a resume. Regards!

    All Beer Blogs last blog post..Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor

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  • The ability to make a comprehensible, on-message, and appealing video is becoming a literacy. I hadn’t thought about it in that way. Is this new? No, not the communication piece, but the medium is new as a universal. Essentially, everyone is a commercial director and the product is yourself.

    I am such a text oriented person–if there’s text, I’ll read it even if it is the ingredient list on the cereal box. I am working on becoming more audio and video literate, but I need constant reminders to think outside my comfort zone. Today, students are using Audacity to practice making phone calls for our upcoming blood drive. They seem much more engaged than in years past when they would just pretend to call each other. The comments here have given me the push to include some of the audio on our wiki. Thank you all!

    Sarahs last blog post..Swimming Without Drowning

  • Ann Darling

    Looks like you are ahead of the curve. Just heard this last night on NPR

  • My thinking is very in line with the Downes quote on this and has been for some time. As I watched my students prepare their videos for the Net Gen Ed Project my view became even more reinforced. Prior to teaching I worked in the film industry briefly, and I am frequently comment on the challenge and array of skills involved in making quality video of any length. I would love to spend even more time, but there is so many other things to do too. Still, I am with you in that it is rapidly becoming a necessary skill.

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