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21st Century Technology Skills Are a Core Competency for Today’s Graduates

by Kelly Walsh on November 10, 2013


Our students need to be comfortable with the information technologies that are inextricably linked to the 21st century skills the work place requires, and teachers need to help pave the way.

A May, 2013 Gallup Study, summarized in this article, “In the U.S., 21st Century Skills Linked to Work Success”, indicates that young U.S. adults who say they developed 21st century skills in their last year of school are more likely to self-report higher work quality.

“Gallup, in collaboration with Microsoft Partners in Learning and the Pearson Foundation, developed a 21st century skills index measuring seven specific areas: collaboration, knowledge construction, skilled communication, global awareness, self-regulation, real-world problem-solving, and technology used in learning. According to the study, 21st century skills prepare and equip youth for the challenges and demands of work in today’s knowledge-based, technology-driven, globalized environment.” (Sidhu)

21st Century Skills Word Cloud Image

In 2006, the Partnership for 21st Century Learning published a report titled, “Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce (Partnership for 21st Century Skills). This is one of many studies and reports published in the last 5 to 10 years that emphasize business’s requirement for 21st Century Skills that are increasingly being applied using today’s information technologies. Year over year, the requirement for these skills has continued to expand as businesses and the general population increasingly adopt a wide variety of digital technologies.

Some of the skills commonly being cited as vital in today’s workforce include:

  • The ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing (with almost all of today’s written communications in business being conducted digitally).
  • Teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate with others in diverse groups settings (information technologies are increasingly essential to many forms of organizational collaboration).
  • The ability to innovate and be creative (today’s information technologies empower innovate and creative capabilities in ways not previously envisioned).
  • The ability to locate, organize, and evaluate information from multiple sources.

What are “21st Century Skills”?

To clarify what is meant by “21st Century Skills”, this quote from “21st Century Learning Is Not A Program”, by William Washington (Ed.D. Scholar, Walden University) offers a perspective I certainly agree with:

“The Partnership for 21st century skills (2011) identifies these specifically: creativity, collaboration, critical-thinking, and communication. In order to help our [students] develop these skills to a high level, we must incorporate modalities that are relevant to present times (e.g. social networking, mobile technologies, digital computing, gaming,) and also engage the student with instruction techniques that facilitate learning (e.g. pinwheel discussion, group collaboration, projects).  In other words, we need to put the student at the center of the learning and allow them to create their own meaning from experiences.” (Washington)

Here again, we see skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and communication tightly linked to information technologies in the present day world. Many other academic assessments of 21st Century Skills assert this same precept, with some being more precise and assertive than others about the relationship between information technologies and these essential capabilities. As one such example, the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences includes these applications of technology in their 21st Century Skills Definitions web page:

Apply Technology Effectively

  • Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate, and communicate information
  • Use digital technologies (e.g., computers, PDAs, media players, GPS, etc.), communication/networking tools, and social networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information to successfully function in a knowledge economy
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information technologies”
    (Institute of Museum and Library Sciences)

Clearly it has never been more important for schools to provide students exposure to the information technologies that will prepare them for successful entry in to, and thriving careers in, the present day work place. In order to do this, our teachers need to be comfortable with a wide variety of technologies, yet many schools across the country and the world at large have been slow to accept and embrace this vital skill set. Of course, the fundamentals of reading, math, etc., absolutely and undeniably come first, but technology skills are now an essential part of the overall mix.

What is your school doing to prepare students for the 21st century work place?

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Study Shows 21st Century Skill Development Clearly Linked to Career Success
Carnegie Mellon University Reinvents Instructional Technology
The 10 Most Important Emerging Instructional and Education Technologies and Concepts (2013 Update)


Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. “Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills.” Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. 9 November 2013 <>.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. “Are They Really Ready To Work?” 2006. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. <>.

Sidhu, Jenna Levy and Preety. “In the U.S., 21st Century Skills Linked to Work Success.” 30 May 2013. <>.

Washington, William. “21st Century Learning Is Not A Program.” 6 January 2013. <>.



Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Andrea November 13, 2013 at 9:22 am

Hi Kelly,

Great post! As shared on Twitter, we 100% agree with equipping graduates with skills to allow them to succeed after they leave college/university. In the 21st century, this means not only ensuring that students have core competencies such as excellent communication, organization and teamwork skills, but also the ability to use and adapt to new technology and have an innovative mind-set.

Something that you’ve mentioned above is that teachers need to be comfortable with new technology to pave the way for their students. I’ve been reading a lot about this recently and we’ve written a couple of articles discussing how teachers can up-skill by adopting technology in the classroom. Take a look and let me know what you think:

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