21st Century Skills Your Child Needs to Coexist with Computer Automation

Yes, workflows and companies around the world want people with 21st century skills to milk more ‘juice’ out of technology.

Updated Jan 31, 2024
21st century skills

The complex nature of life today, coupled with advances in technology, can only serve as reminders as to why we should equip children today with 21st century skills, necessary for school, work and life.

They must prepare for a mashup of global cultures, just as they must embrace computer automation in its entirety. These include robotics, smart homes, manufacturing automation, the Metaverse, Artificial Intelligence, etc.

Automated machinery and bots are reshaping how we live and work. They help us with domestic chores, education, and productivity tasks! For example, chatbots such as ChaptGPT are becoming popular for teaching, learning, creating content, and in research.

Yes, robots and bots are good at structured tasks in factories and warehouses, and can accomplish monotonous and dangerous jobs without tiring. They also offer precision at packaging, assembly, loading, and welding tasks.

Computers are also better than ‘us’ at math skills. They can process huge amounts of data in record time.

So What Next for Learners in the 21st Century?

Besides mastering the core of Bloom’s taxonomy and thinking skills, future adults must possess appropriate skills to match existing realities of life. They must learn to live and work alongside bots and robots.

Thankfully, there are many skills up for grabs!

Whereas computerized machines and bots can do a lot of day to day tasks, they unfortunately lack the intrinsic ability to understand subtle humane skills that depend on emotions and cognition.

This privilege is still reserved for humans. We are good at tasks that need intellectualism, creativity, innovation, compassion, and multiple other soft interpersonal skills.

Interpersonal skills allow us to read into each other’s minds and base on that to make informed choices and decisions. We can work within complex scenarios and interpret data from varying angles of ambiguity.

These humane skills allow us to image, deviate, and try out different ideas to solve life and work problems.

In order to perfect these skills, children must continue learning and adapting. They must read wide (the old way), and invest more in cognitive science and soft skills. Besides mastering foundational literacy and numeracy skills, they must also invest in deeper learning and higher-order thinking skills.

Only then will they stay on top of their game, and work better with variations of computer automation.

Here are the 21st Century Skills Learners Need Today:

machine and jobs today
(Pixabay image by Colin Behrens)

With robotics grabbing what used to be mainstream jobs, there is every reason to re-evaluate 21st century skills children need for college, work, and life.

The following pointers should be good starting points for all of us parents, teachers, and the community.

1. Learning and Innovation Skills

The following cognitive and core skills are critical in helping learners manage and adapt to the challenges of the 21st century workplace.

– Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

Your child’s ability to think critically creates room for deeper learning and analysis of information. These are necessary for resolving old and emerging problems and tasks.

Critical thinking involves collecting and processing information – just like computers, then evaluating the different ideas and what they mean in resolving problems – computers don’t do this!

Critical thinking can be defined as

… the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

University of Lousville

Creativity and Imagination

Creativity in children describes the ability to come up with innovative and unique ideas for life and work. These can be used to create new opportunities and enhance productivity in the workplace. Your child can begin with simple tasks, such as designing logos, computer games, and architectural assignments using basic applications on the computer.

– Collaboration and Teamwork

With collaboration, your child works with peers for the greater good of the team in the workplace and the community. Working as a team creates room for critical thinking, brainstorming, creative thinking, and an opportunity for everyone in the team to learn new and working ideas. 

– Communication

Communication is a soft skill that facilitates an effective line of conversation between your child and her peers. This creates room for meaningful discussions and decision-making. It involves learning and efficient use of 4 language skills:

  • listening
  • speaking
  • reading
  • writing

These skills complement digital tools on the internet and the workplace.

2. Literacy Skills

Only a few decades ago the word literacy was used to describe proficiency in reading and writing, in addition to counting sills. A lot has changed since then and today, we have multiple other literacy skills to talk about.

Literacy today describes a collection of skills learners need to stay informed, skillful and productive.

According to UNESCO,

Beyond its conventional concept as a set of reading, writing and counting skills, literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.


The following are common literacy skills we all need for work and life:

– Information Literacy

Information literacy refers to the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use information, regardless of its format or medium. It involves understanding how information is produced, organized, and disseminated, as well as how to critically evaluate sources for accuracy, relevance, and authority.

With developed information literacy, a child can discern data objectively, amidst information overload, bias and hate.

Information literacy also involves understanding the ethical and legal considerations involved in using information, such as copyright and plagiarism. It includes the ability to communicate information effectively and to use information to solve problems\make informed decisions.

Information literacy is important for individuals to participate effectively in today’s information-driven society. It is also essential for lifelong learning, as individuals need to continually seek out and evaluate information, to keep up with changes in technology, the economy, and society.

Information literacy is also critical in academic and professional contexts, as individuals need to be able to locate and use information to conduct research, solve problems, and make informed decisions.

– Media Literacy

Media literacy describes your child’s skills to analyze and evaluate media messages, and understand how they shape our beliefs and perceptions. It also involves creating, evaluating, and correctly using the vast mediums of information such as TV, computers, games, blogging forums, and other digital tools.

In addition, it involves understanding how media is produced, how it is used to communicate ideas, and how it influences our attitudes and behaviors.

It is important that your child learns to balance media consumption, to avoid information and digital misuse.

– Digital Literacy

Digital literacy refers to a broader set of skills related to effectively using digital technologies to access, create, and communicate information. It includes skills like using search engines, navigating digital interfaces, and using social media platforms.

Here are the most popular subsets of digital literacy:

  • ICT Literacy

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literacy describes your child’s ability to use digital and communication tools to read, create, evaluate, and use information ethically and responsibly.

It refers to the ability to use digital technologies for specific purposes, such as completing tasks, solving problems, and communicating information. It includes skills such as using software programs, operating hardware devices, and managing digital information.

  • Code Literacy

Coding is an essential digital skill for young learners in the 21st century. With coding, they elevate themselves from being only users of computer hardware and applications. They learn to become content developers and creators for vast digital devices.

  • Cybersecurity and Privacy

This is the ability to protect personal and sensitive information online and understand the risks associated with digital technologies.

  • Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship is the ability to use digital technologies responsibly and ethically, including understanding digital rights and responsibilities.

– Civic and Citizenship Literacy

Civic literacy refers to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for individuals to participate effectively in civic life and contribute to the well-being of their communities and society as a whole.

It encompasses a broad range of topics including but not limited to:

  • understanding government structures and processes
  • knowing basic human rights and the rule of law
  • being aware of social and political issues
  • having the ability to critically analyze information and arguments
  • being able to communicate effectively with others to address common problems

Citizenship literacy meanwhile, refers to the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for individuals to understand and fulfill their roles and responsibilities as citizens in a democratic society.

It includes understanding the fundamental principles and values of democratic governance, such as freedom, equality, justice, and the rule of law, as well as the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.

– Health Literacy

Health literacy describes your child’s ability to understand general health and health care information to make informed decisions on matters of nutrition, general wellbeing, and medication.

It encompasses a range of skills, including the ability to read, understand, and interpret health information, as well as to communicate effectively with healthcare providers and navigate the healthcare system.

Health literacy also involves understanding basic concepts related to health and healthcare, such as disease prevention, medication use, and healthy lifestyle choices. It is essential for individuals to be able to make informed decisions about their healthcare, communicate effectively with healthcare providers, and engage in self-care and disease management.

Low health literacy can lead to poor health outcomes, including increased use of healthcare services, medication errors, and higher rates of hospitalization and mortality. Therefore, improving health literacy is an important public health goal to promote better health outcomes for individuals and communities.

– Financial Literacy

Financial literacy refers to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for individuals to make informed decisions about their personal finances. It encompasses a range of topics, including budgeting, saving, investing, debt management, and understanding financial products and services.

Financial literacy involves understanding the basic concepts and principles of finance, such as interest rates, inflation, and risk management. It also includes the ability to evaluate financial information, make informed decisions about financial products and services, and manage money effectively.

Financial literacy is important for individuals to achieve financial security, make informed decisions about their financial future, and avoid financial pitfalls such as debt and financial fraud. It is also essential for individuals to participate fully in the economy and make informed decisions as consumers, investors, and entrepreneurs.

Environmental Literacy

Environmental literacy refers to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for individuals to understand and address environmental issues and challenges facing the planet. It encompasses a range of topics, including but not limited to: understanding the natural world and ecological systems, knowing the impact of human activities on the environment, and being aware of environmental issues and challenges facing the planet.

Environmental literacy also involves understanding the relationship between humans and the environment, and the ways in which social, economic, and political systems can affect the environment. It also includes the ability to critically analyze environmental information and make informed decisions that promote sustainability and the protection of natural resources.

Environmental literacy is important for individuals to participate effectively in efforts to address environmental issues and promote sustainability. It is also essential for individuals to make informed decisions as consumers and citizens that take into account the environmental impact of their choices.

Cultural Literacy

Cultural literacy refers to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for individuals to understand and navigate different cultures and cultural contexts.

It encompasses a range of topics, including but not limited to: understanding cultural diversity, knowing the histories, traditions, and customs of different cultures, and being aware of the ways in which culture shapes identity and communication.

Cultural literacy also involves understanding the ways in which cultural knowledge and values affect social interactions, institutions, and systems. It includes the ability to communicate effectively across cultures, respect cultural differences, and appreciate the richness and diversity of human cultures.

Cultural literacy is important for individuals to participate effectively in a diverse and multicultural society, to avoid cultural misunderstandings and stereotypes, and to appreciate and value cultural differences.

It is also essential for individuals to work effectively in diverse teams and to engage in cross-cultural communication in a globalized world.

3. Life and Career Skills

Life and career skills include the basics of survival skills necessary for personal and professional development.

– Flexibility and Adaptability

Flexibility and adaptability describe your child’s mental readiness to operate/switch environments and life circumstances without whining and procrastinating. It basically defines how ready she is to embrace new ideas and accept unfamiliar/unexpected life challenges.

– Initiative and Self-motivation Skills

Initiative describes your child’s resourcefulness and readiness to start and accomplish tasks without being pushed. Generally, she has the belief, self-esteem, and confidence to try out new ideas and tasks and complete them.

– Productivity and Accountability Skills

Your child’s productivity skills are good enough if she has the drive and desire to achieve goals by planning, managing time, and setting up teams with peers.

– Social Skills/emotional Intelligence

Social skills and emotional intelligence describe your child’s ability to harness interpersonal skills, through verbal and nonverbal interactions. The ability also means your child learns to regard others with empathy and compassion, and can communicate with less awkwardness.

– Leadership and Responsibility Skills

The leadership skills describe the ability to take charge of situations or people and organize them with respect to societal values and ethics. These abilities involve managing people, public speaking, and doing these with marked responsibility and compassion.

The Last Word

All the above points describe 21st century skills that will make your child live and work effectively, while competing favorably with computer automation.

Yes, companies and workflows still need real people with life skills to milk even more juice out of technology!

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