Giving Students Vital Skills for Their 21st Century Future

From NCLB, and STEM to STEAM

We’ve heard them all and all between.

We’ve heard the acronyms, we’ve heard them before

But maybe our teaching needs a little bit more.

One of the newer terms of popularity at the moment seems to be the concept of the 4Cs: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication. While these are words to add to the long teaching acronym list, there is something important to be said for giving our students these vital skills to become 21st century job ready and future world leaders.

Hanover researchers decided to investigate what skills employers find most essential for 21st ready learners and individuals. They found that the most successful employees and people most likely to get a job out of university have the following skills in common: they can communicate, collaborate, think critically, and think creatively. While this is what the researchers have determined, let’s take a look into what the 4Cs might look like in a classroom by how I have incorporated these ideas into my classroom. I’m far from meeting all of these but I’m thankful for the use of extra tools like SMART tools that help me along the way to meet these 21st century learning goals.


While kids start doing this naturally at recess, in the classroom, and at lunch quite naturally even from their earliest years in school, it is important that we develop lessons to foster this communication skill and allow students the opportunity to foster the use of academic language. In my experience in working with students learning English as a second (or third language), having the opportunity to practice academic language with peers and professionals is essential for students to have successful language acquisition.

I really love giving students the use of the tool of SMART amp to assist with this. Students can collaborate in real time to add and contribute to projects and lessons but more importantly they can use the chat feature of SMART amp to communicate with one another and practice language from a safe distance through the safety net of technology.


The world no longer is in isolation. At an increasing speed, people from around the world are connecting in the workforce, world, and in schools. Students must therefore learn the skills necessary to share and work on ideas while adding input and suggestions in a respectful and responsible way.

As a student I dreaded group projects more than anything. Many people I have discussed this topic feel the same. In groups, some people do all the work, others do little, and then the whole group gets credit for work only a few people are doing. As a teacher (while I would love to say I monitor this completely and eliminate this to make projects fair), I have found this a big challenge.

Thank goodness again for my secret weapon here of SMART amp where I can easily view the contributions made by each student. This allows for group work and collaboration while ensuring the quality of accountability in the work towards the group project.


A very wise teacher friend of mine gave me the advice that all children are creative. The goal in school is only to preserve this creativity instead of hindering it, which is often the case through the schooling process. By allowing students multiple outlets for their creativity, to add to ideas and projects, and to create input, students can express their ideas and creativity outside of just art classes.

Through the use of SMART amp when my students collaborate and contribute to a project or learning, they are able to add input in their own way. Some students prefer to type while others prefer to video record and submit ideas for example. Some students might draw in answers and others may prefer to type in answers. By allowing students freedom to input in their own way to the learning, they are able to utilize technology while still holding on to their creativity.

Critical Thinking

In a school system filled with teaching kids information, my biggest challenge as an educator is how to create thinkers. I’m still on the hunt for ideas here but my hope is that in teaching, students are learning how to think in new ways rather than just becoming passive acceptors of information. In SMART amp I prefer to learn with my students. Problems or challenges are posed. Then students work together, and individually, to create meaningful solutions and apply information they have to work to find. I try to challenge myself to ask questions to my students that never have an answer that can easily be sought through a Google search.

A great teacher who is a true inspiration, Ron Shaffer, once stated that using SMART amp created “Shoulder to shoulder learning with students.” In working alongside my students to facilitate learning with my students and allowing them to solve and show their learning on SMART amp creates a step towards creating the critical thinkers needed for tomorrow.

Want to try SMART amp yourself? Get your free trial today.

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Brianna Owens
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About Brianna Owens

Brianna Owens is a teacher in New Mexico, USA. Brianna is a SMART Exemplary Educator, Discovery Education STAR educator, Golden Apple Scholar Award winner, and most importantly a teacher on a mission to redefine what learning looks like on a global scale one student and classroom at a time.

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