Discussing 21st Century Fluencies (Part II)

In the second part of a three part blog about 21st Century Fluencies, I’ll examine collaborative fluency and creativity fluency. These are discussed in the book,Understanding the Digital Generation: Teaching and Learning in the New Digital Landscape, by Jukes, McCain, and Crockett. I highly recommend reading this book. Additional information can be gathered at their web site as well (http://www.fluency21.com/fluencies.cfm).

Collaborative fluency,  as it is described in the previously mentioned book, is essentially the ability of a student to work cooperatively as a member of a team in an online environment to create original works. Interacting and working with others on social networking sites and even gaming sites is second nature to the digital generation. Students need activities that allow them to build upon the skills of collaboration online with others. By creating these situations in our classrooms, we equip students with a fluency that will not only be needed but will be required for survival in the modern world. The activities don’t have to be elaborate, time consuming tasks. For example, as a 5th grade teacher back in the mid 1990’s, I was teaching my students about the United States government. Instead of giving them the “required” test on US government, I had them go online with students that we collaborated with from France and Japan. Their objective was to work with the students from the other countries and compare the similarities and functions of each other’s government. When it was all said and done, my students knew the US government better than if I had made them memorize facts for a test. The activity also helped create a better understanding for them of how the rest of the world functioned. It was a task that could only be done online because the other students were thousands of miles away! Distance was erased for this activity.

Creativity fluency, and I will quote directly from the book, ” is the process by which artistic proficiency adds meaning through design, art, and storytelling.”  Simply put, just having an answer to a question or problem is not enough. Creativity must come into play when designing solutions/answers. Students need activities/experiences that allow them to use their creativity to create solutions/answers to questions or problems. Sometimes, the solutions/answers may not be at all what the teacher had in mind. That doesn’t make it wrong. Teachers need to realize that just because they didn’t think of it or it does not conform to what they envision a solution to be, it’s not necessarily wrong. With that being said, it is still up to the student to support their creative expression and to demonstrate the validity of their solution. For this, we need to make sure we are asking students to perform on a higher level of thinking. Teachers must gear activities that go deeper into a student’s depth of knowledge. The correct answer can and should be displayed in many creative forms.

Collaborative fluency and creativity fluency are vital in the world economy today. Businesses everyday collaborate with divisions and partners in other parts of the world via many different technologies. In my days as a web designer, I literally created web sites for companies that I had never visited and/or with people that I never actually met in person. In order to do so, I had to be fluent in working through the various online technologies. With that being said, there were probably thousands of other web designers out there that could have developed websites for the same companies that I did. However, it was the creative manner in which I produced solutions that caught the attention of different companies. I had a creative fluency for telling a company’s story through a web site. Collaborative fluency and creativity fluency allowed me to be successful in this one aspect of my life as well as other aspects. As educators, we must provide students with experiences that develop these fluencies. Otherwise we risk sending them out into the modern world at a huge disadvantage.