Discussing 21st Century Fluencies

In the old days (Up until at leaset 1995) we wanted to make sure that students had a good understanding of the “3 R’s.” Actually, we still do. However, as our world changes and goes deeper into the digital age, those “3 R’s” aren’t enough to ensure survival for our children. In the book, Understanding the Digital Generation: Teaching and Learning in the New Digital Landscape, by Jukes, McCain, and Crockett, they discuss 6, 21st-century fluencies.  Two of those fluencies (solution fluency and information fluency) will be discussed in this post.

Jukes, McCain, and Crockett define solution fluency as the ability to think creatively to solve problems by defining the problem, coming up with a solution, applying the solution, and finally evaluating the process and the outcome.  My dad once told me that you need to know what to do when you don’t know what to do. That to me was an early attempt at solution fluency.  In order to ensure solution fluency with our students, we must teach them to be able to approach a situation and use creativity and apply problem solving. In the gaming world, students do this repeateldy and at a rapid pace. In the classroom, we need to give students opportunities through project based learning and authentic learning experiences.  Technology is a natural fit for those types of activities and can facilitate the development of solution fluency by providing students with just in time resources and feedback.

Information fluency is broken down in two subsets. The first is that students are able to access digital information in order to retrieve the information that they need. This is where we teach our students web surfing and web searching skills.  Being able to search the web for desired information in some cases has become almost a survival skill. The second subset involves the assessment of information once you’ve found it. Is it relevant? Reliable? Is there a bias to the information and if so why? Many times students and teachers get very good at the first subset and just assume subset two checks out OK. Obviously this is a dangerous practice.

Many times we find that there is so much curriculum to cover that there isn’t time to cover basic skills and fluencies. We should step back and really examine what it is that we’re wanting to do in education. Is the goal to cover material or is it to help students become capable members of our global society. By taking those precious few minutes of time to learn these skills and proficiencies, it will not only help your students to become more capable, but it may also assist with the coverage of the curriculum.