Alvin Toffler and 21st Century Skills

Another response to a colleague’s post…

As the 21st century is upon us, students are required to solve complex problems, possess global awareness, and use resources that exist outside the school setting. Alvin Toffler stated, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who can learn, relearn, and unlearn.” (1980). I believe technology can nurture artistic expression and create opportunities for students to do meaningful work. All students need access to high-level and high interest software as well as having the ability to feel comfortable with the tools of the Information Age. Schools must use technology to increase their productivity and efficiency.


I’ve seen (and appreciated) this Toffler quote often. In fact, it is used by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory in their enGauge project, which defines a framework of 21st Century Skills for students (and truthfully, for anyone).

The difficulty for classroom teachers, and for educational technology planners, is that most states do not currently measure or place any formal value on these skills, though the public, business community, and academia may be crying for them. My former boss, Steven Glyer, Director of Educational Technology in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District (where an ambitious high school redesign effort is underway), is calling for a system of metrics by which these skills can be measured, and thus reported to school boards and the public. A local school board need not let the state test scores be the final word in assessing their schools, if the community decides to place value on something else. Glyer want a tool that will allow him to deliver evidence that these skills are being mastered. I agree with him that this is one of the great challenges faced by educational technology today.

I have made a habit of sharing the enGauge project with each of my classes over the past few quarters (and as your name is familiar to me you may have seen this before), but I can now add something more to the discussion. I recently attended the first Orange County High School Summit where we were lucky enough to hear Dr. Daggett speak and present his Rigor/Relevance Framework and many of his High School Resources. He also discussed the 3 R’s of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has taken a clear interest in redesigning high schools.

In any case, I think we have yet to rise to the challenge of Toffler’s statement, and the sooner we do, the better. It certainly seems that you had a great impact moving your district in the right direction in your role as Director of Academic and Technology Training Services. I hope that none of us in this class will ever abide the complacency of the past.