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Friday, January 13, 2017

The Four C’s and STEAM: Preparing 21st Century Learners for Success by guest blogger, Kaitlin Klein

In the hope of receiving better, more prepared candidates, employers from businesses far and wide have helped to pinpoint the four essential skills they look for when hiring prospective employees: The Four C’s. Above all else, they are looking for people who are skilled in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. So what exactly does that look like for our students?

In his TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” Sir Ken Robinson, makes the case that creativity is as important as literacy for preparing our students as 21st Century Learners.

At USD, we are lucky to work in a district that seems to agree with many of Sir Ken’s ideals and is embracing the need for change, by looking towards the future in preparing 21st Century Learners!

Critical thinking: Critical thinkers are able to evaluate multiple options, make decisions, use different kinds of thinking based on different situations, and solve problems by creating innovative solutions.

Communication: Twenty-first century communicators can use different technologies effectively to communicate. They have developed excellent listening skills and the ability to articulate thoughts and ideas orally.

Collaboration: Effective collaborators are flexible and skilled in their ability to work with diverse groups. They are able to be responsible for individual tasks that contribute to group success and actively contribute ideas and skills to group projects.

Creativity: Creative students can think of new and innovative ideas and solutions. They think outside of the box, while taking into consideration the constraints of a particular problem. They aren’t daunted by failure, but instead, look at failures as opportunities for future success.

Teachers in our district are already doing amazing work with incorporating The Four C’s in lessons, but if you’re looking for a new way to bump up The Four C’s in your own class, one way to help foster these skills is through all things STEAM, especially the engineering design process.
With engineering design, students are tasked with answering a complex, real-world problem that needs a creative solution.

In the imagine phase, they get their creative juices flowing by brainstorming as many solutions as possible, without questioning whether or not the ideas will actually work.

In the plan step, they work with a team to decide on an idea in which they would like to delve deeper, which requires effective communication within the team and critical thinking skills to identify the best option, given their constraints.

In the next two steps, create and improve, collaboration and critical thinking are key. Teams must work together to create a prototype of their solution, each person contributing to the final outcome, while evaluating problems and solving them creatively, in order to improve their prototypes.

And lastly, all of The Four C’s are brought into play in the explain phase, where students must determine the best way to articulate their ideas and present them to a specific audience.

Engineering projects are fun for students, and they hit a lot of standards in one swoop, especially math and the NGSS. They can be tied to literature and social studies, too! Try one out in your own class, and watch The Four C’s flourish with your students. Here are some to get you started, and a planning sheet for your students to use either digitally, or on paper. If you would like help with a project, the STEAM ToSA’s are always available to help in any way.