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James Hall

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the opportunity to read this blog entry. I’m writing to you today from high above the clouds as I return to Vancouver, Canada from a trip to Lima, Peru.

When I fly, I tend to listen to music, look out the window, dream, reflect, and generally think a lot. As I was writing this my playlist came upon the Beatles classic “Hey Jude”. These lyrics stick with

me from the song:

“For well you know, it’s a fool, who plays it cool by making his world a little colder.”

In Lima, I had the chance to work with several excellent groups of educators at schools, institutes, colleges, private schools, and with the ministry of education. It was a brilliant time and as I’ve been returning home today, I have been reflecting on what topic I’d like to discuss in this blog. I’ve decided to expand on a topic which I gave at a convention there, which is the 21st Century learning classroom.


These days, one of the buzz words in the education sector is 21st Century learning. Most of the current content has focused on the 4 C’s which are the four additional competency areas that have been identified for learner development. These are communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. However, 21st Century learning is about so much more than just this- however, I’ve noticed that a lot of the discussion and discourse on the matter has not focused on the essential literacy areas and on the areas for social emotional learning. I’ll unpack the 4c’s for you another day along with the new literacies as they relate to content areas. As for today, I want to focus on some of the equally important areas that have been underemphasized.

Social-emotional learning for me is one the most important as a publisher and educator because it is an area where we can have an important impact on. The World Economic Forum has a great piece of writing on this, which you can find at the link at the end of this article. Social and emotional areas of learning are at the heart of the learning experience. As learning becomes meaningful when it is contextual they’re also essential skills to help learners. Take grit for example, so grit or persistence is one of the very much undervalued areas for development these days. In a world, where many things come easy it’s so difficult to teach persistence. But, as they say when the going gets tough the tough get going and this is the essence of grit. Going the extra mile and putting in the effort when others are focused on immediate gratification is essential.

Another area of social and emotional is empathy. Our world is so polarized now and focused on the differences between us. However, a polarized world where we lack the ability to connect and relate to each other doesn’t sound ideal for social success. Just imagine the gridlock we already see on social issues. This makes collaboration and cooperation impossible when we can’t relate to and understand those with other viewpoints. As well, when we lack empathy we are going to see more and more instances of bullying for example. Understanding ourselves and succeeding when working with others needs empathy without a doubt.

Developing empathy and understanding of others can be done by publishers when we work these kinds of content areas and discussions into our textbooks, one of the best examples of this I have seen is in the book series Integrate. One of the units in Integrate deals with a group of students who are preparing for a talent show. However, one of the students preparing for the dance is in a wheelchair, the classmates show empathy and understanding for him when they create an inclusive talent show act so that he does not feel left out. Addressing such cases of people feeling left out through including this content and showing this kind of interaction is really important to help normalize learners to those who are different from them and create empathy and understanding.

Let us as society of educators help our learners to stop focusing on the binary differences between us and start to focus on understanding each other. This, of course, is at the very heart of learning.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog. I’m sure I will be back with some additional topics and areas related to English language learning.

Let’s make our world a little warmer.

See more: Download WEF_New_Vision_for_Education.pdf


James Hall is general manager at Compass Publishing and an experienced teacher, editor, writer, and teacher trainer. He has been working in global education sectors since 2004 and has worked closely with educators around the world.