in Teaching Strategies

The Four Cs: A Guide for Preparing Students for the Future

Our world is changing—and quickly. The way we communicate, our access to information, and the types of jobs we can expect to be available are all rapidly evolving with technology. The topics (and ways of teaching them) that were once deemed necessary for success after graduation have also begun to shift to reflect the changing landscape.

Educators may already be intimately acquainted with the term 21st Century Skills. For those to whom this is a new concept, 21st Century Skills is defined by The Glossary of Education Reform as, a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed—by educators, school reformers, college professors, employers, and others—to be critically important to success in today’s world, particularly in collegiate programs and contemporary careers and workplaces.

Since their inception, 20+ competencies were identified as a part of 21st Century Skills. Luckily for us, they have since been condensed into just the Four Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication. 

Critical Thinking

A recent article by Acer for education, outlines why teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills is so important. 

For one, teaching critical thinking prepares students for jobs that don’t exist yet, especially when more and more careers include remote work. Future employees will need to be able to micro-manage and work with less supervision than ever before. 

Critical thinking will help students learn to change and adapt faster in this ever-changing world, especially with technology. 

It also allows students to ensure their future decisions are based on facts and logic, particularly in political opinions. 

Heather Wolpert-Gawron, with Edutopia, defines critical thinking through visualization: “I picture the brain triggered by a thought that causes it to shoot signals from one area to another, forming pathways between neurons. Critical thinking is when the brain is active, making connections to the material and applying original thought to the concept.”

So, how can you apply critical thinking to your curriculum? Kasey Bell from Shake Up Learning gives examples such as creating learning experiences, such as mock trials or debates, scientific investigations, interpreting events in history or literature, or design challenges.

You can also use Ozobots, of course! Check out our Deconstruction Series in our lesson library to integrate critical thinking into your classroom!

Collaboration

When students turn into adults, we want them to be able to be functioning members of society, right? Well, learning to work well with others is a huge part of that and a necessary skill for kids to learn. 

Sabrina Gates, with the National Education Association, gives some more advantages of teaching collaboration in the classroom. Collaboration helps brainstorm new ideas. Gates writes that collaboration provides a safety net; it helps you catapult your thinking and develop ideas that may seem crazy at first.

Collaborative learning has been shown to not only develop higher-level thinking skills in students, but boost their confidence and self-esteem as well. Group projects can maximize educational experience by demonstrating the material, while improving social and interpersonal skills. Students learn how to work with various types of learners and develop their leadership skills.

There is always an opportunity to incorporate collaboration in your classroom. In fact, you are probably already doing it! Things such as group projects, team-building exercises, and shared decision-making are excellent places to start!

Our Ozobot Obstacle Course activity is an exciting way to introduce a fun, engaging collaborative project to your students as well! 

Creativity

We have received feedback from thousands of educators who say that STEM skills alone will not prepare students for the 21st century, creativity is another major factor. 

A recent article posted by Edsys says, the right mix of creativity along with curriculum helps students to be innovative and also encourages them to learn new things. Students can grow up to be good communicators in addition to improving their emotional and social skills. 

There are many benefits of teaching creativity in the classroom, including enhancing thinking capability, boost problem-solving skills, gain an innovative mindset, and have an upper hand in future careers. 

Bell writes that you can cultivate creativity and innovation with projects that require students to design original solutions, invent something new to solve a problem, or integrate art and design with room to fail.

One of our favorite lessons that integrates students’ creativity is our Snow Plow lesson. This lesson has students going through the design process to construct a snow plow for their Ozobot.

Communication

Remember the intense fear you had as a student of having to talk in front of the whole class? Many of us struggled with public speaking growing up—which is probably why communication has been included in 21st century skills. 

Yes, it can be scary for kids to get up and talk in front of a group of their peers, but it is an essential skill to have in the future workforce. However, communication isn’t all about public speaking.

Alice Stott, Director of Learning and Development at Voice 21, lays out a framework for communication in a recent Edutopia article. This framework provides a starting point for working out what exactly constitutes great communication in different situations:

  • Physical: How a speaker uses their body language, facial expressions, and voice.
  • Linguistic: The speaker’s use of language, including their understanding of formality and rhetorical devices.
  • Cognitive: The content of what a speaker says and their ability to build on, challenge, question, and summarize others’ ideas.
  • Social and Emotional: How well a speaker listens, includes others, and responds to their audience.

Bell gives examples for teaching effective communication skills such as giving students opportunities to interact with adult experts, authors, and real-world audiences. Let them experience speaking and presenting.

You can also find a great lesson incorporating communication skills in our Immigration with Ozobot lesson! Students will need to be able to explain immigration concepts and communicate really big ideas. 21st century skills are crucial for preparing students for the constantly changing world we are living in today. The Four Cs make up a big part of those abilities, and need to be introduced to kids early on so that they can feel confident joining the future workforce.