IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED that we change the goals for our 21st century children to the so-called “6 C’s” of Character, Citizenship, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical thinking. But still missing from this list is a critical component that all kids in the 21st century need to grow up successfully. The missing 7th “C” is CREATING AND ADDING VALUE TO THE WORLD.
Creating and Adding Value
A life that adds no value misses the potential of humanity — ”value” is what humans add positively to the world. Creating and adding value is why we give our kids an education. Value is not just economic, measured in money. One can, for example, be a “valuable” member of a family or community. But value is a shared concept, similar to communication — it is measured through interaction. If something is worthwhile to you alone that is fine, but from society’s perspective it adds little or no value, because creating and adding value means doing something that someone else needs or wants.
Value can be created and added by everyone in the world in some way — at a family, local, community, or national/world scale. Although the other six C’s of Character, Citizenship, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical thinking are excellent enablers of value creation, they do not automatically produce it.
Humans create and add value though REAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS in the REAL WORLD, i.e., through doing and completing value-adding projects. Those can be work projects, or personal projects such as taking care of a family member. Personal achievements may leave medals, trophies, or diplomas, but accomplishments leave results — physical creations or ideas that better the world in some way. Those results have a Measurable Positive Impact on some other person or people — i.e., they improve the world. It is the sum of the projects we choose to do and accomplish in our lives that defines us as valuable, unique individual humans.
The Educators’ Way: Content + The “6 C’s”
The educators’ means to value creation is to stuff into young people’s’ heads as much content and knowledge as possible. If we can just do this, think many, it will someday lead to value creation. Yet the relation between the amount of content and knowledge put into people’s heads and their eventual accomplishments and value created is not at all clear. One big reason is that humans quickly forget much of what is put in. Some educators also try to insert the 6 C’s, social-emotional skills, and other potentially useful things into kids’ heads. But what educators typically DO NOT DO is to encourage young people to accomplish in the real-world — following their own direction — starting early in their lives and continuing all through their schooling.
Creating and Adding Value through Real-World Accomplishment is the Better Means for the 21st Century
Today, because of huge increases in kids’ technology capacities, combined with a newly-found attitude of “I can and I want to,” it is now possible for them to start adding value to their world even when they are very young. Today continuous real-world accomplishment by students, all through growing up, becomes the best means to long-term value creation. The best predictor of future accomplishment is past accomplishment, it turns out, so it’s crucial that young people begin accomplishing these value-adding projects asx early as possible. To see 3-year-olds doing this, view this You Tube: https://bit.ly/3-year-olds.
Student Projects: “PBL” vs. “MPI”
More and more educators have their students do what they call “projects” — but some kinds of projects have far more value than others.
Doing “PBL Projects” or “Project-Based Learning” — as the name implies, is a pedagogy for creating curricular learning — which is educators’ main goal. PBL Projects are “academic projects” — created and assigned by educators, tied tightly to academic standards, with results presented in papers or presentations to the teacher (or, at best, to a small audience.) Although some call them “authentic,” meaning that they are similar to problems in the real world, PBL projects rarely, if ever, create or add any real measurable value — outside of in the kids’ heads. Most PBL projects do not enable — or even allow — accomplishment in the real world at all. They are another way of “putting things into kids heads” and not designed for “bringing out value for the world.” They originate, typically, not from the students, but from the teacher and the curriculum.
Measurable Positive Impact Projects
“Measurable Positive Impact” or “MPI” projects, on the other hand, are so different that it is confusing that they share the same “project” moniker. MPI Projects are accomplishments by young people that create and add value. They are self-chosen and self-directed. MPI Projects are REAL, and not merely “authentic — they are real-life accomplishments. They count as “potential realized” and belong on a real résumé. MPI projects are the steps — and the means — to realizing one’s full potential.
Today, MPI projects are growing all over the world — under many sponsors and banners. Scouts and 4H do some MPI projects. Another big sponsor of MPI projects is Design for Change (DFC), an organization founded in India over a decade ago and now operating in 60 countries. DFC has helped young people accomplish tens of thousands of real-world MPI Projects, with project team members ranging in age from 3 to 20. Many of the completed projects — along with their Measurable Positive Impact — can be viewed at dfcworld.org and btwdatabase.org. MPI projects can also be done by students for real world clients. As companies and non-profits realize the enormous value that young people can now create and add, we are seeing more and more of these.
Reaching your “Full Potential”
An individual’s “potential” is the total value they eventually contribute to society and the world. By adding the 7th “C” of Creating and Adding Value to our goals for young people we can have a clear, actionable means to value creation and to reaching one’s full potential. We should be offering the “7th C”, Creating and Adding Value to ALL children in the world just as quickly as we can. That — and not our 20th century “content-stuffing” education — or even just the first 6 C’s — should be the future of growing up for all 21st-century young people.
Marc Prensky is the coiner of the terms “Digital Natives” and Digital Immigrants,” both now in the Oxford English Dictionary. He was formerly at the Boston Consulting Group, and is the author of 10 books, the most recent of which is EMPOWERED!: Re-framing ‘Growing Up’ for a New Age.