The 4C’s – Part 1

Ken Kay while he was at the Partnership for 21st Century Skills brought to my attention the importance of adding the 4C’s to the 3R’s – Creativity and Innovation, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. With the growth of STEM initiatives, problem-based learning, and personalized learning, the 4Cs become even more important. They are the building blocks for all present and future initiatives that attempt to build a teaching and learning framework for the 21st century learning environments. They become the guide posts for an educational vision.

Let’s take a look at each component and think about projects and best practices.


Sir Ken Robinson, a professor emeritus from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, has become one of the leading spokespeople on the value of creativity and play in learning. He sees education as the formal ending of the natural curiosity of children. We teach children that they should have the right answer and therefore, reduce the natural process of trying new approaches, strategies or solutions – the basis for creativity and innovation. It’s only in sports and the arts where we encourage what should happen in all aspects of learning.

From President Obama to corporate leaders there is an outcry for a greater focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – STEM. Why? It’s the STEM related fields that create the opportunities for corporate innovation. Without innovation modern corporations fall by the wayside. In today’s global market, the most successful innovators grow and leapfrog their competitors. After the death of Steve Jobs I read an article that highlighted how Steve Jobs brought the “Arts” into the STEM mix, creating STEAM. Without the arts and creativity, STEM has a limited life as a catalyst for innovation.

The same should be true for educational institutions. In many ways charter and virtual schools have become the incubators of innovation. Both charter and virtual schools have taken the lead using online learning to personalize instruction. It’s now up to traditional schools to find ways to develop inquiry-based learning using projects with student choices that incorporate creative digital products.

In the Pittsburgh region Propel Schools and PA Cyber are two examples of schools that are using problem-based learning to challenge students and incorporate creativity and innovation in the learning process. As one of the Propel School parents states, “I see Propel as a laboratory through which other schools can learn.”

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