How Adobe powers 21st-century learning
The realities of the modern workplace present new and unique challenges to traditional education paradigms. It wasn’t so long ago that schools taught a core curriculum of “essential knowledge,” along with hands-on skills that would prove useful across many disciplines. But facts and skills now age much more rapidly than they used to.
Today, a world of information is available on demand — yet much of that information is outdated or inaccurate. Digital fluency has become an absolute “must-have” in almost every industry — yet technologies and even entire sectors can become obsolete overnight, requiring workers to re-skill and change careers multiple times throughout their lives.
In response to these challenges, educators are turning increasingly to a framework of “21st-century learning,” focusing on skills and content that will equip students to survive and thrive in their future careers — not only in technical disciplines, but also in the ever-expanding range of fields that leverage digital platforms in their day-to-day workflows.
Let’s take a closer look at the ideas these teachers advocate — and how Adobe is helping bring those ideas to life in classrooms around the world.
What is 21st-century learning?
The term “21st-century learning” defines a range of core competencies designed to help students navigate today’s fast-changing world. This framework represents a shift away from the old paradigm of memorizing “important facts,” toward an increased emphasis on critical thinking, self-directed learning, productive collaboration — and, in particular, digital literacy.
This shift is a crucial one for several key reasons. Now that we have a world of data at our fingertips, memorized facts are far less useful than the practical ability to find and interpret applicable information. As technical knowledge rapidly grows outdated, career growth depends on staying curious and trying new approaches. And as social connectivity surrounds us 24/7, clear communication and agile cooperation have become increasingly vital life skills.
Many of today’s students already live with these realities, having grown up in a fluid and highly personalized digital ecosystem. That means 21st-century learning is crucial for teachers who seek to keep education engaging and relevant. The first step is to take stock of the skills most essential for today’s students — and look for ways to cultivate those skills in the classroom.
21st-century skills in education for students
- Learning Skills: The 21st-century learning paradigm begins with the “four Cs” — communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. In a world where most work is collaborative, students need to understand how to communicate their ideas and questions within a group and apply their knowledge and talent toward that group’s common goal. At the same time, students need to be able to think critically about new information and to synthesize their existing knowledge into creative new perspectives and solutions.
- Literacy Skills: The “four Cs” break out into a wide range of specific applications. For example, effective critical thinking requires not just digital media literacy, but also broader informational literacy, as well as technological literacy. Students need to know how to recognize inaccurate or questionable information on social media, how to self-educate and perform research using reputable sources, and how to navigate today’s rapidly evolving technological universe to keep their knowledge and skills relevant.
- Life Skills: At the same time, these practical skills have to be balanced with life skills. Students need to learn to be flexible enough to adapt plans in response to changing circumstances, while also knowing how to take initiative on starting projects, and motivate their team members to achieve a shared goal. In this age of distractions, students also need to learn how to maintain focus and stay on task. And since networking is critical for career growth, students need to know how to expand and leverage their social connections for everyone’s benefit.
How does Adobe drive 21st-century learning?
To help students develop 21st-century skills, teachers must cultivate digital fluency across a wide range of class subjects and content formats. In fact, a 2017 EDUCAUSE report found that digital literacy is a core competency for the modern workplace, where most job roles require at least a base-level understanding of digital content creation — and full digital fluency greatly enhances a student’s employability.
Recognizing the critical importance of digital literacy in 21st-century learning, Adobe has taken a proactive role in helping faculty utilize digital tools and content in their classrooms. For example, Adobe offers step-by-step guides to help teachers integrate digital assignments into lesson plans using the Creative Cloud platform. Adobe also makes it easier for remote learners to transition back to the classroom with paperless worksheets that replicate the assignment workflows they recognize from home.
The bridge to digital transformation
On a broader scale, digital classroom experiences are only one component of the overall journey toward digital transformation. By replacing paper-based processes and filing systems with digital tools and workflows, schools can streamline communications and operations, gain deeper insights into each student’s progress, and pinpoint opportunities to reduce costs while delivering more impactful education.
At the administrative level, for example, Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Sign, help make paperwork paper-free for K-12 administrators, by enabling parents to e-sign digital consent forms and liability waivers. These forms can be signed from any connected device, freeing parents of the burden of physically traveling to the school just to sign a piece of paper. What’s more, Adobe Sign automatically and securely stores final signed documents and audit trails of every transaction — making it easy for staff to manage, organize, and search for any document, while reducing risk.
By integrating 21st-century learning approaches and digitally transformed environments, schools can equip students to thrive in a diverse range of careers, throughout many decades to come.
Find out more about how Adobe technology can encourage digital literacy by visiting the Adobe for Academics website. And visit the Education Resource Hub to explore a wide range of resources focused on paperless approaches that underpin a successful digital transformation.
As always, feel free to get in touch with questions on how to bring digital literacy and transformations to life for you and your students and staff. We’re here to help!