Reflections of #lrnchat: 21st Century Skills, Literacies, & Fluencies

Each week that I am able to participate in #lrnchat discussion I post a summary of the discussion to my blog. I do this both for my personal development as well as sharing with the Learning and Development Profession at large. This summary is based on my own interpretations of the chat; others who participated may have differing opinions or interpretations of the discussion. I welcome those that do to add your ideas to the comments.
The topic of this week’s #lrnchat session was “21st Century Skills, Literacies, & Fluencies”.
I always find looking at the questions that are used to loosely guide the chat as a nice way to see the overall theme of the chat. Here are the five discussion questions that were presented to the group:
Q1) What are 21st century literacy/skills/fluencies?
Q2) What do our learners need to develop? How can we support them?
Q3) What do WE need to develop? How can we do it?
Q4) How can we support both newbies and experienced learners on this journey?
Key Learning Points
Today’s #lrnchat discussion focused on what the new literacy, skills, and fluencies that are needed in 21st century learning, and what sort of support learners and learning professionals will need to develop those skill sets.
The discussion started by identifying what those literacy, skills, and fluencies are.    There were a great number of ideas shared.  When reviewing the discussion, two major themes seemed constant. The first theme was the concept of self-motivation and self-direction.  This makes sense, as it brings the world or organizational knowledge and skills in line with the overall collaborative environment being created by the ever-engaging world of Social Media.  People don’t need to be told to log on to Facebook and update their profiles or review their wall – they choose to.  Organizational knowledge may be behind the curve in many cases, but it’s still going in the same direction.  If you need information, don’t expect someone to hand it to you.  Chances are, the information is already out there.  If you need it, go get it.
That leads to the next common theme. There is a great deal of information available, and it is growing exponentially.  When you have a search engine like Google that opens you knowledge base to almost anything, the need to filter the deluge of information becomes critical. There’s an old expression: it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.  That expression implies a fruitless effort, because the task may be impossible.  I think we have already reached a point where that expression is becoming obsolete.  In the 21st century, filtering through the hay to quickly find the needle isn’t just possible, it’s a critical skill to remain competitive.
From there the discussion moved to what learners need to develop, and how learning professionals can best support them.  The theme of self-direction was the common thread that was present in most responses.  Learners will need to take control of their own learning, which is a major shift considering most adults have had learning pushed to them since their childhood.  Flipping that coin is a concept that many have never considered.  In addition, self-direction is less about ‘How?’ and more about ‘Why?’; it’s about being motivated to be self-directed.  So how do we support such a shift?
The simple answer is this: If you want learners to start shifting to a ‘Pull’ learning culture, stop pushing.  It echoes comments I’ve made to my daughter in reference to her younger brother: “Sweetie, don’t keep doing XYZ for your brother; if you do, he’ll never be able to do it for himself“.
Of course, in a corporate world, the answers are never that simple.  Shifting from ‘Push’ to ‘Pull’ isn’t a light switch located in the Learning and Development office; it’s a part of the organizational culture.  It’s really the foundation to how an organization, consciously or unconsciously, structures their knowledge management strategy. 
Cultural change is hard, and it takes time.  In some organizations, Senior Management may see the value and support a strategic shift.  In other organizations, the benefits may need to be shown more tangibly first. On the plus side, if Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media environments have shown us anything, it’s that if you build an environment that people feel self-motivated to engage in, they will.  That’s the support mechanism learning professionals need to tap.
The discussion then moved towards what Learning Professionals need to develop to support this shift.  The answer to this question was actually much easier than may have been initially considered.  Ultimately, when it comes to the shift to 21st Century learning, we are all ‘learners’.  As learning professionals, it is critical that we practice what we preach, and set the example for other learners to follow. From this perspective, it becomes less about ‘Learners and Instructors’ and more accurately ‘Learners helping one another’.
How do we do that?  I think it starts with the stop: If you want learners to start pulling, stop pushing. The problem with that statement is that it doesn’t truly show the difficulty that many learning professionals have with the concept.  I the absence of ‘Pull’, many learning professionals will fill the void with ‘Push’.
This problem of engagement has always existed; it’s just the technology that’s changed.  It echoes quite possibly the most challenging ILT skill I have coached trainers on in the past: allowing for uncomfortable silence. 
Whether it be a in-person or virtual classroom, conference presentation, or some other live setting, We’ve all been in an environment where we ask the attendees a question… and no one answers.  You often have this happen early in the session, and it’s a critical moment.  Do you allow for the uncomfortable silence and wait for someone to respond, or do you release them from the uncomfortable moment by filling the silence yourself?
Hopefully, you choose the former and allow for the silence.  Otherwise, you set the expectation of “I’ll answer the questions for you”, and no one will feel compelled to participate going forward.
That same challenge exists in a cultural shift to ‘Pull’, only on a larger scale.  Employee are used to being spoon-fed the information they are told they need.  If the spoon suddenly disappeared, eventually the hunger for knowledge would insure self-directed action regarding learning.  Within learning active programs, we can support this culture by shifting from a ‘spoon-feed’ approach to more of a ‘scavenger hunt’ environment.
For me the tweet that best summed up the discussions came from @LearnNuggets: Goes back to Pull rather than Push. We provide the relevant content and tools to access it, and let learners discover.
I think this is an excellent summary, as it provides a relevant answer to all of the questions.  The concept of ‘Pull versus Push’ encompasses many of the new skills and literacy described in the chat.  The tweet also describes the roles of both learners and learning professionals in this new paradigm.  Learning professionals need to provide the open framework in which the learners can safely explore and discover. 
Most importantly, learning professionals, and the organizations they serve, need to have the patience and focus to give learners time to adpat to this new learning environment, and not give in to the temptation to pull the rug out from under it by reverting to ‘Push’.

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