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21st Century Skills are Changing, and So Should Our Focus: 5 New 21st Century Skills for the Flipped Classroom

Posted by Amy Arbogash - Guest Author

Sep 1, 2015 4:08:00 PM


Human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.

This rate, according to an article written two years ago, is projected to change soon to every 12 hours. Scary, isn’t it?Being a teacher and technology integration specialist, my mind wandered to our students. If there is so much knowledge out there, what are we teaching in the classroom? Are we spending the majority of our time teaching our students knowledge that is readily available to them? Knowledge that someone else has already figured out? And is that what they are going to need in the workforce and out in the real world?

With the Internet getting easier for people to access and 1:1 programs becoming more widespread around the country, knowledge is rounding the corner of being at the fingertips of our students 24/7. Now, I don’t believe our students shouldn’t read about and learn this knowledge, but what is becoming more and more important in our world is what is being done with that knowledge. Knowledge may be power, but what you do with that knowledge is going to determine your impact on the world.

Traditional classrooms typically spend the majority of their time going over knowledge. As stated above, there is a lot of it! There is so much knowledge to learn that it is really difficult to have the time to doing anything with it.

Since everyone in the world has access to the same knowledge, skills other than memorization and research will need to come to the forefront of our classrooms. What if there was a way to have students learn this knowledge AND have enough time to do something with it? Enter flipping the classroom.

Flipped classrooms are not a new concept. The theory is if you pull out the informative parts of your lessons that students can do alone, like reading a chapter or watching a video on how to solve a problem, you will have time for students to actively use that knowledge during class time. In the flipped classroom, the teacher becomes the facilitator and students become colleagues. A few weeks ago, I wrote another blog post for TeachThought about how we have even used the flipped concept for our staff meetings, giving the teachers time to actively collaborate and create during the meetings instead of just gaining knowledge and information.

With the flipped model, how do you go from concept to implementation?

Even though the concept of flipping is fairly easy to understand, you must be willing to put time into combing through your lessons and removing the informative pieces. These pieces can be given to students to do outside of the classroom in both digital and traditional formats. Make a video of yourself giving lab directions. Give a reading from the textbook. Assign a Khan video. Have them conduct an interview. The important part is their ‘homework’ involves gaining the information and knowledge they need in order to participate in class the following day.

The real challenge is once those pieces are taken out of your lessons, what will you do with the students during class? By flipping your classroom, you gain time for students to work on skill based activities. Often, aside from the curriculum, the skills we are referring to are the 21st Century Skills, such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. But being a decade and a half into the 21st Century, the educational community has begun to wonder if the 21st Century Skills first talked about in 2002 are starting to change. Are there new skills with an increased importance in the real world and the workforce?

Here are five new 21st Century skills gaining popularity that you may want to consider incorporating into your flipped classroom.


Many people believe they have leadership skills. But the difference between being a boss and being a leader is stark. Students need to start working on the skill of leadership as they collaborate with their peers. Many times students see leadership as telling others what to do, but true leaders dive in and work just as hard as the others. They seek out the strengths of each individual, motivating the team to success.

As a teacher, give students opportunities to be in a collaborative setting. Coach and model not just how to be a good leader, but also a good follower. And most importantly, have the students make time for appreciation, an often underused and undervalued principle of leadership.


The world is overwhelmed with new knowledge every day. Students are going to need to learn how to take that knowledge and be innovative with it. Using the imagination in order to create something new is a highly valued skill in our world. New products come out constantly, but only greatly innovative products stick around. Students need conditions in which they are inspired to create and challenged to innovate. They need tasks that require them to look at situations with different perspectives, which will ignite the passion to pioneer new creations for our future.


The world is full of tough problems, and I don’t anticipate future problems getting any easier. If we want a safe world where our children and our children’s children can grow up, we need problem solvers who have drive and initiative. It’s easy to think someone else will take charge and fix the issues. The problems in our world are going to need all of us. We have to be willing to pitch in, help, fix, solve, and create. Teachers, become a yes person. When a student wants to try something new or take on a new perspective or create something different, say yes. Let them out of the box. Help them believe in their ideas. Be their cheerleader. Trial and error will lead them from good ideas to great ideas


Our world seems to grow smaller and smaller these days, creating a situation where Americans are working in and with many different countries around the world. Employment within a company where you work with colleagues from a foreign country will be a real possibility for our students. The understanding of culture, people, and perspectives is going to be an extremely important skill. Some of our communities are diverse, while others are not. But collaboration you can extend student experiences beyond your classroom walls into other states and countries, providing students the opportunity to gain not only global awareness but also a greater perspective of the people of the world. This in turn will help them become better global citizens as well.


Maybe the most highly sought out trait in an individual in the workforce is adaptability. This blog post started with how fast human knowledge is doubling. Our students are going to have to learn how to adapt to change quickly.

Not only that, as they innovate and problem solve, they also have to be able to adapt to failure. They have to learn how to readjust and try again. As students explore your lessons, make sure to include not just paths that lead them to success, but also paths that lead to dead ends. Throw them a few curve balls. As you facilitate, ask them questions that train them not to think of failure as bad, but a necessary component to success.

Students have a very different world waiting for them than what we had. By the time some of them graduate, the world will probably be completely different than it is now. Flipping your classroom and building in time for important lifelong skills will help students deal with a world that is changing faster than we can sometimes handle. Our students are the ones that will create our future. We need to stop allowing standardized tests and knowledge to carry so much weight and instead invest in teaching students to build a better world.

I hope you found this post helpful. I’d love to hear about your best practices for implementing a flipped classroom in the comments below!

About the Author


I am currently the Technology Integration Specialist at Bay View Middle School in the Howard Suamico School District, near Green Bay Wisconsin. We are a progressive 1:1 iPad, Apple, Schoology and GAFE school. I love helping teachers and students discover the wows and wonders of learning through technology. It's like opening a whole new world to them. Prior to becoming a TIS, I was a classroom teacher for 11 years. I taught math and social studies to 5th and 6th graders. Being the first in our district to utilize iPads in the classroom, technology has always been an interest of mine.

I have also completed coursework for a principal licensure. Through that program, professional development became a passion of mine, both my own and for my teachers and administrators. I enjoy blogging, reading, learning, creation, and innovation.

I love connecting with other educators around the country and the world. You can find me on Twitter @amyarbogash and on my blog at blazingthetrailofinnovation.wordpress.com.


A note on guest posts: Our community blog is a place for educators from all walks of life to share opinions and exchange ideas. Simply because a post appears here does not necessarily mean we endorse the views presented therein. That being said, we'd love to hear what you think! Please post any questions or comments below, and we'll get right back. 

Topics: Resources, Teaching & Learning, Connected Educators, Educational Technologies

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