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TEL Communities
Definitions: Theoretical background relevant to technology facilitated social learning
Research evidence: Systematic literature reviews on the theme of technology facilitated social learning

Implementing 21st Century skills in schools


While much research notices the change in teacher’s roles and the need for increased focus on ‘twenty-first century skills’, there is little research exhibiting proven methods for achieving such change. We know that twenty-first century skills are in competition for time with traditional curriculum items such as basic reading and math. This means that twenty-first century skills must be developed not in competition with, but alongside and integrated with the ‘traditional’ skills.

One example of such integration is the literacy development method developed in Sollentuna, Sweden (Grönlund and Genlott 2013). This method led to considerably improved student results, about 20 percentage points better than control groups. This was achieved in literacy as well as numeracy. The authors suggest that the key to success was that it drew on twenty-first century skills, namely communication and social interaction using online tools to improve the traditional skills. These were measured by means of the traditional standardised national tests in Sweden. The same study also showed that using ICT without a clear method does not bring improvement but may rather lead to worse results. The result for the control group that used ICT in, ‘a spontaneous’ manner performed 8 percentage points worse than the ‘traditional’ education group (i.e. no ICT used)’.

‘We have seen a slow development of measures for such new skills that are not easily measurable. One example, which was not sustained, was the ‘‘digital reading’’ measure used in the latest PISA study. We can indeed see that more of this is in the making. The next PISA measurement will for example include a measure of the ability to take part in collaborative work.’(p.214)
Erstad (2009) points out that this is a systemic change process. The educational system in any country is complex and involves actors at different levels in a usually complex hierarchy, ranging from the political level (often both local and national politics) over several administrative levels and audit and control agencies to the individual schools and teachers. No major change, such as 1:1, can be achieved without actors at all these levels taking concerted actions.’

The authors note that so far, within the 1:1 field, the focus has been on the technology, however educational change is complex: ‘For example, teachers increasingly require changes in national tests to reflect new work methods.’ (p.215)We can by now see that the early focus of the 1:1 discussion, the computer, is no longer the only or even the major focus.’ (p.215)

The authors  conclude that one-to-one cannot be the leading concept for school development; there is a need for a change to something related to the core task of school: i.e. students’ learning. The multitude of devices coming into use and the increased role of networked resources make ubiquitous computer use in schools increasingly an issue of leadership.
This includes two sizeable tasks:
1. Managing an increasingly complex set of resources, physical as well as educational and/or informational.
2. Managing human resources, students and teachers, in increasingly diverse work situations stretching time and space from office hours and school buildings to include the home and public places like libraries and cafes as well as evening hours and weekends.


Using technology in the classroom can go either way; student results can improve or deteriorate. Only good pedagogy guarantees improvements.


Erstad, O. (2009). Addressing the complexity of impact—A multi-level approach towards ICT in education. In F. Scheuermann & F. Pedro´ (Eds.), Assessing the effects of ICT in education. Indicators, criteria and benchmarks for international comparisons (pp. 21–40). 

Islam, M.S. and Grönlund, Å., 2016. An international literature review of 1:1 computing in schools. Journal of educational change, 17(2), pp.191-222.