Four Barriers to Facilitating 21st Century Competencies Through Digitalization

Four Barriers to Facilitating 21st Century Competencies Through Digitalization

Scott J. Marakovits
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6967-2.ch006
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The purpose of this chapter is to identify and offer solutions based on four barriers to facilitating 21st century competencies through digitalization. The first barrier includes the technological challenges faced by families, including devices and reliable broadband internet. The second barrier explores the training and support needed by teachers in implementing digital tools and instructional technology. The third barrier is a pedagogical shift from teacher-centered to student-centered teaching and learning, especially in remote environments where this approach is needed for student engagement. The fourth barrier is training for parents and families to become familiar with the technology and digital tools that their children are using. Practical solutions backed by research are presented by the author for consideration by teachers, administrators, and the school community. Prompts for reflection and discussion based on identified barriers and real-life examples are presented by the author at the conclusion of the chapter.
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Understanding the four Cs and their broader competencies is a need for teachers, especially if this has not been a part of their teacher preparation program. In a study by Ibrahim et al. (2019), teacher candidates exiting a preparation program demonstrated overall effectiveness with 21st century skills. This effectiveness included creativity with technology in designing lessons and assessments, including the presence of project based learning. Despite the recent evidence that new teachers are entering the workforce prepared to teach 21st century skills, this may not be true of all teacher preparation programs or routes to certification.

Evans et al. (2020) explained that the four C’s are intertwined within larger competencies. For example, creativity, critical thinking, and communication are types of cognitive competencies. Further, collaboration and communication can exist together as interpersonal competencies. The National Research Council (2012) recommended that the 21st century competencies should be studied more to better understand connections to student success as adults

To eliminate and remove the existing barriers to achieving 21st century competencies through digitalization, these barriers must first be identified. During COVID-19, the digital divide with access to devices and reliable high speed internet became clearer when students across the nation and world entered into remote learning. Effective management of technology resources can be a factor in providing families with access to digital devices (Ilie, 2020). In addition to device and technical based barriers, instructional and assessment barriers also exist, primarily due to various teacher awareness and competency levels with digital tools and technology programs. Third, the effective transition from teacher-centered to student-centered classrooms in both traditional and in-person settings is a barrier that should be overcome. Finally, the need to prepare families for what to expect and how to navigate digitally with school devices will help to facilitate students becoming competent in the 4Cs, especially during remote learning.

As proposed solutions to these barriers, it is important to note that we no longer can completely predict how our K-12 students will experience education in the future. Some students may return to completely traditional settings, while others may stay completely remote. The hybrid option is also a possibility for the foreseeable future. Connecting with others through various digital methods will be important for students to be successful in a future society (Ilie, 2020). With this in mind, it is best to take the approach to overcoming barriers from a digitalized perspective. The availability of digital tools, technology programs, device access, internet infrastructure, and teacher training opportunities are all crucial elements to achieve 21st century competencies in an uncertain educational structure. All of these crucial elements can be implemented within a traditional, hybrid, or remote setting to provide teachers and students what is needed for 21st century competencies to be met despite the aforementioned barriers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hotspots: Devices which provide internet services when there is not existing or reliable connection through traditional land based or cellular service options.

Flipped Classroom: An instructional approach that uses technology as a means for students to construct knowledge through student-centered tasks, with the teacher in the role of a facilitator.

Remote Learning: Internet-based learning through digital tools, programs, and resources in a synchronous or asynchronous format.

Digital Tools: Internet-based programs and resources that can be used to support, enhance, and facilitate instruction that is online and technology driven.

Student-centered Learning: An approach to education where the focus is shifted more on how the students are actively learning, as opposed to the actions of the teacher.

Broadband Internet: Internet services capable of streaming, sending, uploading, and downloading digital information at a high rate.

Exit Tickets: Tools used by educators to assess student understandings, misconceptions, and progress toward learning goals and objectives.

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