Librarians and Teachers Working to Incorporate 21st Century Skills

This week I explore the first and sixth ISTE Coaching Standards through the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University. Through my studies, the terms “21st century skills” and “21st century learners” continue to pop up. These phrases have been used in abundance over the last decade, but what do they really mean? And how do I, as a school librarian, help incorporate them into the classroom? In an effort to succinctly articulate my musings, my question this week is as follows:

What are 21st century skills and how can they be incorporated into the classroom in a meaningful way that enhances the curriculum?

Before I can explore the implementation of 21st century skills, I needed to pause and illustrate what a 21st century learner might look like:

21st Century Learners

The National Council of Teachers of English define a 21st century learner as someone who is able to:

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology,
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought,
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes,
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information,
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts,
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments (NCTE Executive Committee, 2008).

Even more succinctly, the National Education Association (NEA) has extracted the four most important skills of a successful 21st century learner. These skills eventually became known as the “Four C’s”:

  • critical thinking,
  • communication,
  • collaboration, and
  • creativity (National Education Association).

For educators looking to take their first confident steps in incorporating those Four C’s into their classroom curriculum, NEA has published a comprehensive, user-friendly guide to the implementation of the Four C’s:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Next Step:

How Do I Help Incorporate These Skills Into the Classroom?

The need for these 21st century skills is not refuted, but many schools “have struggled to adapt [them] into their curriculum” (Carey, 2014). Foltos also highlights this in his books, stating: “The need to improve education to better prepares [sic] students with 21st-century skills like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity is clear. Schools and school systems have by and large not adapted to meet this challenge” (Foltos, 2013, pg. 37). For many, these skills are not being incorporated because teachers “already have rigorous, established curricula with little wiggle room” (Carey, 2014). Fortunately, in my role as school librarian, I am in the unique position to support learning, “develop students’ (and teachers’) 21st-century skills,” and help “lead the way as schools develop a new learning environment” (Schroeder, 2015, pg. 36). In addition to the traditional roles of a librarian, many school librarians are also working to incorporate:

  • technology integration,
  • curriculum leadership,
  • professional development,
  • support of multiple literacies,
  • development of students’ 21st century skills, and
  • Common Core State Standards (Schroeder, 2015, pg. 36).

I Am Librarian

My classmate, Marsha Scott recently sent me a great article from Education Leadership about librarians serving as coaches for the school. Author, Carl A. Harvey, president of American Association of School Libraries, states that “although the classroom teacher is generally the expert on the content standards, the school librarian is the expert on the process of finding, evaluating, using, creating, and sharing information. Bringing the two together engenders powerful learning opportunities for students and provides professional development to teachers” (Harvey, 2011). Aside from creating powerful learning opportunities, teachers and librarians can work together to embed 21st century learning skills directly into the classroom curriculum. Students will be taught to use critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity as an integral part of their learning. Instead of stand-alone lessons in digital and informational literacy, these skills become a natural part of every lesson and project.

In an earlier post this quarter, I questioned my ability to serve as an effective peer coach without having the experience of being a classroom teacher. The more I learn about mentoring colleagues, the more I see how librarians are a natural fit for the coaching role. Jennifer Carey, Director of Educational Technology at the Ransom Everglades School notes that “teachers are the front line of content delivery, but if teachers are not comfortable and confident with the use of technology, then they will not incorporate its use into their classrooms” (Carey, 2014). Under the mentorship of a school librarian, teachers and librarians can work together to enhance content with 21st century skills; developing students that are well-rounded and ready for the future.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the TPACK model, where Content Knowledge (CK), Pedagogical Knowledge (PK), and Technological Knowledge (TK) intersect ( As I was reflecting on my findings this week, I realized that librarians and teachers can team up to create learning experiences that utilize all areas of TPACK. Each professional brings their own areas of expertise, and together, they help students soar.

Librarian-Teacher TPACK

Now What?

I actually started this post wondering what direction I was going… What did all this mean? How did it apply to me and my job and my role as peer coach? It’s interesting when you start on a journey that doesn’t make sense until you’re looking back. This was one of those journeys. I am starting to feel really confident about the strengths I bring to the table. I had a great meeting with my collaborating teacher this week and we made a lot of progress, but the real “ah-ha!” moment came a bit later in the day. We were in the office and she was talking with a colleague about the professional certification adventure she was about to embark on. She mentioned that she had been very nervous but, now, because of our work together, she felt confident in moving forward. She knew that we were in this together and she would have my support, not only in the classroom, but throughout her certification process, as well. What a validating and gratifying moment. She knows she can do this with my help and I know I can do this with her help. Thanks honest collaboration, trust and sharing. You made my day.


Alber, R. (2013, January 21). Deeper learning: defining twenty-first century literacy [Blog post]. Retrieved from Edutopia website:

American Association of School Libraries. (2007). Standards for the 21st-century learner [PDF Document]. Retrieved from /AASL_LearningStandards.pdf

American Association of School Libraries. (n.d.). Who school librarians are and Learning4Life. Retrieved November 4, 2015, from American Library Association website:

Carey, J. (2014, March 26). How to infuse digital literacy throughout the curriculum [Blog post]. Retrieved from Powerful Learning Practice website:

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Harvey, C. A. (2011). The coach in the library. Education Leadership, 69(2). Retrieved from

How can we embed digital literacy into the classroom? (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2015, from Purposeful Technology-Constructing Meaning in 21st Century Schools website:

National Education Association. (n.d.). An educator’s guide to the “four c’s”. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from National Education Association website:

NCTE Executive Committee. (2008, February 15). The NCTE definition of 21st century literacies. Retrieved November 8, 2015, from National Council of Teachers of English website:

Schroder, E. E., & Fisher, S. (2015). Communicating the emerging roles of librarians to teachers through a collaborative k-12 and higher education partnership. Knowledge Quest, 44(2), 34-42. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Thought Process

Word Cloud Created Using Tagul
Word Cloud Created Using Tagul

3 thoughts on “Librarians and Teachers Working to Incorporate 21st Century Skills

  1. Wonderful post, Becky! The NCTE and the NEA resources connect well with your question, especially the “Educator’s Guide to the Four Cs.” It is interesting that the role of a librarian has changed over the past few years. After reading your list, I would say that librarians are superheroes. I agree, that “teachers and librarians can work together to embed 21st century learning skills directly into the classroom curriculum.” With all of the demands to increase student achievement, teachers need support in all areas to reach this goal. It was brilliant to connect the TPACK with teachers and librarians! That section where teachers and librarians are working together is key since it impacts student learning. Thanks for adding the visual as a reminder to use TPACK when coaching.

    I like the way you ended the post with one of your coaching experiences. And thanks for sharing your thought process…wow, it’s awesome!

  2. It is always refreshing to see your transparency as you think through each new question posed. I was struck by the inclusion of the following quote- “For many, these skills are not being incorporated because teachers ‘already have rigorous, established curricula with little wiggle room’ (Carey, 2014). This is so true and very intuitive of you to note. It seems like often these skills feel additive for teachers instead of integral to current practices due to curriculum as it is already defined and time. It is clear that you are poised in your own growth, reflections and research to truly work with any collaborating partner. I also really appreciated your inclusion of the NEA document. This is helpful in its definitions, ways to integrate in the classroom, and resources. Great job!

  3. Becky, what a great post that captured your thought process very well. In addition, your explanation and unpacking of the history of the four Cs and 21st century skills in general, was very informative and helpful. Your deep thought on this area and integration into your current practice was evident. Thanks!

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