Favorable review by The Journal of General Education

The Journal of General Education, Volume 59 Number 1, 2010 E-ISSN: 1527-2060 Print ISSN: 0021-3667

By Benjamin T. Brauer

“… Lehmann states that “there should be whole new schools where kids are accomplishing things that no one ever dreamed possible” (2009, p. 19). This concept was not lost on the Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel 2009 publication Twenty-first Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times. Trilling and Fadel make the case that just as the face of education changed during the industrial age, we are now at the crossroads of the knowledge age and a shift in instructional delivery and curriculum must occur. Through the course of their book, these two scholars describe what this change should look like and how to accomplish such a sweeping overhaul of the American educational system. Furthermore, this book provides suggestions and applicability for classroom teachers and administrators at the K-12 level. Trilling and Fadel also discuss the change needed among the ranks of higher education. In doing so, they discuss not only the training programs for future educators and administrators but also what the college classroom of the future should look like across all fields of study, not just those in the field of education. Finally, Trilling and Fadel take a holistic approach to their call for change, by examining the role that community members, business leaders, and policy makers will take in changing the educational landscape in the twenty-first [century]…”

The National Education Association praises the book in its review

The NEA’s review can be found at:



For your convenience, the text reads:

“A book? A resource? A movie? 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel is all of that.

In their book and compelling DVD with teachers in action, authors Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel do a first-rate job of laying out what 21st century skills are all about.

The Book

The book makes clear why education must change: to help prepare students to meet complex challenges, fulfill their civic responsibilities, and live fulfilling lives. The authors carefully draw from studies, experiences, and leading education thinkers, such as Daniel Pink (writer), Howard Gardner (Harvard), and Edgar Morin (UNESCO), to portray fresh, engaging approaches to teaching and learning in America’s schools.

The authors underscore that 21st century learning begins with rich core content. This provides the basis for the knowledge students need to apply skills. Additionally, new content, such as digital literacy, is needed for students to succeed in the 21st century.

Too often policy discussions about learning stop with content, say the authors. Instead, educators should have more opportunities to focus on what students should know and be able to do. It is the application of knowledge – the doing – that describes much of 21st century skills. Trilling and Fadel say 21st century learning requires critical thinking, problem-solving, communications skills, and career and life skills.


In the DVD, the authors provide brilliant video examples of interdisciplinary learning in classrooms across the country, showcasing the talent teachers need to infuse 21st century skills in their classroom practices.

Trilling and Fadel acknowledge that educators have long-recognized the important interrelationship of knowledge with skills – the value of the lively application of learning to truly master knowledge – but unfortunately schools are not structured to routinely integrate the two.

The authors’ respect for teachers contrasts with their frustration of a system that has yet to cultivate the skills students need. Many teachers have clever ways of bending the system to bring engaging practices into the classroom, but such worthy efforts demand support. Trilling and Fadel level this book as a volley to change an educational system in order to help teachers teach and students learn.”

EdTechClassroom favorably reviews the book in its podcast

EdTech blog S2_Episode10 extract book part 1

EdTech blog S2_Episode10 extract book part 2

The book review is part of the Book Talk segment http://edtechclassroom.com/?p=527;  the relevant audio clip has been extracted here.  The reviewer Joe Wood, who frequently presents to schools on 21st century skills, liked the book and put it to work immediately in his next presentation, doing the 4 Question exercise.  Many other nice things were said in this review.

Q & A on 21st Century Skills

What are 21st century skills?

➢    21st Century Skills are the set of skills students need to succeed in learning, work and life in this century.

➢    To ensure success, students need both deep understanding of the major principles and facts in core subjects (such as math, language, arts, science, history, etc.) and also be able to apply this knowledge to important contemporary themes (such as global awareness, financial, health and environmental literacy, etc.) using a variety of skills, such as:

  • Learning and Innovation Skills (critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation)
  • Digital Literacy Skills (information, media and technology literacy); and
  • Life and Career Skills (initiative and self-direction, leadership, adaptability, etc). Continue reading

Press Release: Learning for Life in Our Times

A practical guide to the learning our students need to thrive in our times

San Francisco, CA – Imagine a classroom where students are exploring the question, “Is nuclear power a good alternative to fossil-fueled power?” One group of students studies Marie Curie’s and others’ early discoveries in the physics of radioactivity, while another group researches how modern nuclear fission and fusion works, and a third analyzes current French politics and policies on nuclear power, including an online discussion of the issues with students in France. With the aid of appropriate digital technologies, the students synthesize and share their findings with each other and propose creative alternatives and possibilities.  Then the entire class holds a debate on the issues in front of parents and members of the community, and posts its findings on the internet for other classes around the world to share in and comment on. Continue reading