Project Management

21st Century Skills and Digital Skills: Citizen Development Skills for Life

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By Mario Trentim

As the world changes, new and transformed professions arise. We are now at a point when it is very challenging for the people and organizations to make sense of the current situation because the pandemic turned our world upside-down. Meanwhile, we need awareness that “what brought us here won´t get us there”, to paraphrase Marshall Goldsmith.


We must acquire new competencies

and skills urgently.


I am a project manager and a PMI volunteer since 2008, which means I was fortunate to take part in the evolution of project management morphing into a life skill. We are now on the verge of a significant change: Citizen Development and Digital Skills.

In this article, I will discuss how digital skills are connected to the 21st-century skills established by UNESCO in the early 2010s. And I will suggest a roadmap for PMI volunteers, professionals, educators, and parents, to prepare our next generations to the future of work.


21st Century Skills

Since the emergence of technology changes and globalization, it has been argued that formal education must embrace new forms of learning to build competencies needed to tackle more complex challenges.

Pedagogy changed to foster participation and emphasize project and problem-based learning (LUNA SCOTT, 2015), but it still relied more on synchronous in-person classes. Although e-learning was a possibility for a long time, educators and schools struggled to create a remote-first education.

Research about digital skills, technology literacy, computer programming, and related topics started to surface more robust evidence that we are failing to prepare our kids for the future of work. Laar et al. (2017) provide a systematic literature review to emphasize the importance of digital skills.

Considering digital transformation started back in 2008 with cloud services, educational models and systems are outdated. The job market already noticed that formal education is not sufficient. And that´s the reason why short duration courses, micro-learning, and self-paced study are growing at a fast rate in recent years.

The pandemic in 2020 and 2021 impacted schools and universities severely. Classes were interrupted, educators were disrupted, and students are confused and bored. Was it possible to anticipate change and reinvent education before the COVID crisis?


Roadmap to Prepare Future Generations

The answer to the previous questions is Yes and No. Yes, because we were able to see that educational systems and curricula were outdated. No, because there is always strong resistance and attachment to the status quo.

The best time for change was in the past. The second best time is now. And here is the roadmap to prepare future generations, digital native toddlers and young adults, equipping them with new skills and competencies needed:


  1. Adopt a Remote-First Mindset

I had the opportunity to help schools and educational nonprofits during the pandemic. One of the biggest mistakes I notice in schools that combine in-person and remote learning is that they focus on in-person because it is easy. As a result, the kids studying from home feel bored and excluded. If schools want to change education, they need much more than a webcam recording room with the professor and some students.

It is necessary to rethink and remodel the curricula, adapting classes to shorter durations, defining asynchronous and synchronous learning, and more. The secret to being successful is to adopt a remote-first mindset: if the remote students are learning and engaged, all the students are learning and engaged.

Focusing on teaching and leading at a distance is a game-changer, but we must have a different breed of educators.


  1. Embrace Citizen Development Educators

I´ve mentioned that some professions are at risk, and all the occupations must be reinvented as new technologies digitally transform them. Since coding skills and computer literacy are in high demand for the future of work, educators must cultivate digital skills. Not only learn how to stream classes and use learning management systems but also become citizen developers themselves. I will discuss this further in another article.

Microsoft Power Platform: School Teacher uses Power Apps to Transform Classroom Management and Motivate Students

Mendix: Building the Digital University


  1. Combine Edutainment and Technology

I´ve been experimenting with education for two decades now as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. One of the most powerful ways to learn something is by doing and explaining what you are doing. That being said, I structure my lectures in three different types: foundations, practitioner, and advanced.

The foundation classes are comprised of self-paced learning, reading, and asynchronous learning. The student gets a common understanding by accessing introductory materials that prepare them for the live class (synchronous).

The practitioner classes are hands-on, using a collaboration space, we devise experiments, simulations. These classes promote critical thinking and collaboration.

Finally, the advanced classes focus on case studies, benchmarking, and sometimes significant challenges or unsolvable problems. These classes are designed to promote innovation and creativity.

You probably think that all I said does not apply to you. But I tested it with low-income and high-income students, toddlers, undergrad, and even MBA students. It works and there are communities of educators discussing how to reinvent education combined with technology.

Currently, you can teach geography, chemistry, history, and more, using Minecraft for Education. And you can develop a variety of other skills with Scratch programing.​

Minecraft for Education

Scratch Programming


How You Can Help With CD Education

First, check out references like  Serious Games and Edutainment Applications (Jain, 2011).

Then join a community of educators like MIEE Programs or others, depending on your technology choices. Third, and most importantly, get acquainted with the PMI Citizen Development Framework and join a community of practice.

I hope that soon we have groups of volunteers building the Citizen Development Skills for Life, similar to what we did in the past with PM Skills for Life. Let me know your thoughts below.

Posted by Mario Trentim on: April 01, 2021 12:00 PM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Maria Cecilia Lima de Rezende Barros Project Manager| Sondotecnica Engenharia de Solos S.A. Rio De Janeiro, Rj, Brazil
For me all this virtual eduacation is completely diferenf from my presential education and from my kids education.
I´ve no doubts this virtual education has to be reached, but as yoy said, the first step is to train teachers. Kids, nowadays born dealing weel with all different kingd of technologies.

Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Mario
Very interesting this theme that brought to our reflection and to debate
Thanks for sharing and your opinion
A few years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a team that brought George Siemens to Portugal, to tell us about Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age
The first step to be taken, in my opinion, is for teachers to change their paradigms in relation to teaching and learning

Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Thanks for sharing Mario,
I loved the coining "edutainment"

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