Promoting the 6C’s of Education through Digital Technologies in Higher Education

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

-Alvin Toffler –

Communicating creatively and collaborating globally play an essential role in 21st-century education. University graduates must be equipped with these 21st-century skills to compete globally and comply with the competitive markets. Therefore, teachers need to foster new skills in the classroom—mastery of the 6 Cs of education, including critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship/culture, and character education/connectivity. It is clear that the 6Cs” need to be fully integrated into classrooms, schools, and districts around the country to produce citizens and employees adequately prepared for the 21st century. Notably, technology proliferation leverages these six skills employed in teaching and learning. These 6 Cs of education are in line with the ISTE Standards for Students, particularly as a creative communicator (point 6) and global collaborators (point 7) (ISTE, 2022). As a creative communicators, students are expected to:

  1. Choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  2. Create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  3. Communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models, or simulations.
  4. Publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

As a global collaborator, students are expected to:

  1. Use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning
  2. Use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints
  3. Contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal
  4. Explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions

What are the 6C’s of education?

To be successful, students need more than just the basic 21st Century Skills associated with the 6Cs. They also need emotional intelligence, grit, perseverance, an intrinsic desire to learn, and the capacity to empathize with others. Therefore, embracing the 6Cs is critically essential to prepare students for their future.

Figure 1. 6C of Education for the Future

1. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the process of filtering, analyzing, and questioning information/content found in various media and then synthesizing it in a form that offers value to an individual. It allows students to make sense of the presented content and apply it to their daily lives (Miro Inc., 2021). This skill covers problem-solving, higher-order thinking (HOT) skills, real-world problems, project-based learning, and interdisciplinary approach.

Chiruguru (2020) further elaborates four (4) definitions of critical thinking and problem solving:

1. Reason effectively a. Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as appropriate to the situation.

2. Use systems thinking

a. Analyze how parts interact to produce overall outcomes in complex systems.

3. Make judgments and decisions.

a. Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims, and beliefs.

b. Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view.

c. Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments.

d. Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis.

e. Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes.

4. Solve problems

a. Solve unfamiliar problems in conventional and innovative ways.

b. Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions.

2. Communication

Communication provides how the individual can present information. Information is presented in a multitude of means through a variety of media. Communication must be clear and concise, compelling and engaging, and eventually be presented in a meaningful way to the individual and the audience. This skill covers effective communication, self and peer review, information fluency, media fluency, and digital fluency.

Chiruguru (2020) defines communication as sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions. It is much easier and more challenging to communicate simultaneously in the technological age. Technology has provided more convenient ways to communicate, but sometimes the various ways can become overwhelming. Without effective communication, there is no way to get anything done inside the classroom or anywhere, which is why this is an essential 21st Century skill. Therefore, he further proposes some strategies how to communicate clearly:

  1. Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills in various forms and contexts.
  2. Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes, and intentions.
  3. Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g., to inform, instruct, motivate, and persuade)
  4. Use multiple media, technologies, and know-how to prioritize the impact and effectiveness.
  5. Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including multilingual and multicultural)

3. Collaboration

Collaboration is the skill of utilizing various personalities, talents, and knowledge to create a maximum outcome. The outcome must provide a benefit to a group or the entire community. Due to synergy, the typical result has a more excellent value than the sum of values of each outcome (Miro Inc., 2021). Collaboration skill includes team building, effective communication, self, and peer assessment, collaborative mediums, and suitable technologies.

Further, Chiruguru (2020) defines collaboration as follows:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams.
  2. Exercise flexibility and willingness to help make necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal.
  3. Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member.

4. Creativity

In the 21st century, an individual must create something new or create something in a new way, utilizing the knowledge they have already acquired. It signifies art and various solutions to a problem in real-life situations (Miro Inc., 2021). Howard Gardner cites “the creative mind” as one of the five minds we will need in the future. To cultivate such a mind, he says, we need an education that features “exploration, challenging problems, and the tolerance, if not active encouragement, of productive mistakes.”

Creativity can be closely intertwined with other critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Innovation today has a social component and requires adaptability, leadership, teamwork, and interpersonal skills. Increasingly, the capacity to innovate is linked to connecting with others and communication and collaboration facilities.

Besides, the following are some characteristics of creativity proposed by Chiruguru (2020):

  1. Think Creatively
    • Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (brainstorming)
    • Create new and worthwhile ideas (incremental and radical concepts)
  2. Elaborate, refine, analyze, and evaluate original ideas to improve and maximize creative efforts.
  3. Work creatively with others
    • Develop, implement, and communicate new ideas to others effectively.
    • Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate group input and feedback into the work.
    • Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real-world limits to adopting new ideas.
  4. View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation are part of a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.
  5. Implement innovation
    • Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and valuable contribution to innovation.

5. Citizenship/Culture

Miller states the culture as one of the critical pieces of the 6 C’s, while Michael Fullan features citizenship. They are not so different when we look closer and go hand in hand. Individuals need to be in touch with everything surrounding them—both culture and community (Miro Inc., 2021). The culture encourages the individual to appreciate where we have come from, who we are now and how we can move into the future. Besides, it associates the individual with all surrounding them: art, drama, dance, poetry, history, science, religion, written and verbal language, technology, and the individual. Embracing culture covers the context of information, exchange respect, collaboration, building community, and real-world problems.

6. Character Education/Connectivity

According to Miller (cited in Miro Inc., 2021), understanding the importance of human connectivity in a world filled with technology is necessary to teach children. Fullan (2018) highlights character education as the last C. It includes a school’s commitment to helping young people become responsible, caring, and contributing citizens. Connectivity places the individual in touch with their world. In today’s existence, that is increasingly through the technology rapidly changing the way they view their world, understanding that connections are personal no matter the means of contact and that humanity must remain in light of how the technology may change for each individual. This skill includes an interdisciplinary approach, encouraging collaboration, enabling technology, information fluency, and encouraging reflection.

How to foster the 6C in the Higher Education classroom?

Leveraging digital technologies to foster the 6C in the classroom, particularly in Higher Education, is an excellent strategy in teaching-learning activities. Teachers can embrace these 6C skills through online collaborative learning. Online learning is best accomplished through interactions and collaboration (Bonk, 2009; Palloff & Pratt, 2007, cited in Altowairiki, 2021). Online collaborative learning is more than an activity; instead, it needs to be conceived as an overarching way of learning that fosters continued knowledge building (Lock & Johnson, 2017, cited in Altowairiki, 2021). Through collaborative learning, students must communicate in a digital learning community. This way, they can develop and support self-regulation skills, digital literacies, and the perceived learning of students (Blau et al., 2020). In Higher Education, some tools can encourage students to collaborate or work on projects, such as Padlet, Jamboard, Miro, Google docs, Google slides, Google sheets, and many other tools.

Here are some examples of online collaborative learning promoting the 6C skills of education:

1. Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Project-based learning is a teaching method that students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. Shin et al. (2021) propose some PBL design features (Please see Project-Based Learning in Higher Education). PBL has some steps, as seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Project-Based Learning Cycle

Furthermore, as seen in Figure 3, teachers also can incorporate digital technologies in Project-Based Learning. Successful project-based learning (PBL) seeks to develop models for deeper understanding in school and college by engaging students in projects. This method blends classroom teaching, technology use, and problem-solving through projects and real-world challenges (Jain, 2017).

Figure 3. Using Technology in Project-Based Learning

2. Genius Hour

A Genius hour is another teaching method in the classrooms of the 21st century. The movement refers to a certain amount of time during class that teachers give students to explore their passions (Miro Inc., 2021). The crucial part of genius hour is defining a fine line between helping students focus on the problem and researching the topic independently. At the same time, it is acceptable to guide them initially, at some point, to let them work at their own pace and in their style.

According to Heick (2014), in Teachthought, there are six genius hour principles, as seen in Figure 4. A sense of purpose refers to the purpose students find in the topic they choose to explore. Students design their learning methodology, and through inquiry and navigation, students make sense of ideas vital to them.

Figure 4. Genius Hour

These two online collaborative learning activities inevitably foster the mastery of the 6 Cs of education (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship/culture, and character education/connectivity). Besides, the 6Cs highly support the ISTE Standards for Students. Remarkably, these skills play an essential role to equip university students in global competition.


Altowairiki, N. (2021). Online Collaborative Learning: Analyzing the Process through Living the Experience. International Journal of Technology in Education, 413–427.

Blau, I., Shamir-Inbal, T., & Avdiel, O. (2020). How does the pedagogical design of a technology-enhanced collaborative academic course promote digital literacies, self-regulation, and perceived learning of students? Internet and Higher Education, 45, 100722.

Chiruguru, S. (2020). The Essential Skills of 21 st Century Classroom. March, 1–13.

Diaz, P. (2020, January 28). A way to promote student voice—literally.

Fullan, M. (2018). Global Competencies: The 6 C’s FINAL.

Heick, T. (2014, September 28). 6 Principles of Genius Hour in The Classroom.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Students.

Jain, S. (2017, February 5). 7 Ways to Integrate Technology For Successful Project-Based Learning.

Miro Inc. (2021, February 9). The 6 C’s of education.

Perkins, D. (2019, December 12). 8 Steps for Teaching Through Project-Based Learning.

Shin, N., Bowers, J., Krajcik, J., & Damelin, D. (2021). Promoting computational thinking through project-based learning. Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research, 3(1).

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  1. Melissa Dunworth

    Thank you for sharing 2 wonderful strategies for encouraging the 6Cs in the classroom. I love that both of these can be independent but also work well for collaborative projects. I know your focus is on higher education, but I feel like there are also wonderful applications for K-12 education as well.

  2. Chelly Rody

    Hello Ignas,
    Great explanation about the 6Cs. This is a wonderful statement about what kids need in this day and age to be successful: “They also need emotional intelligence, grit, perseverance, an intrinsic desire to learn, and the capacity to empathize with others.” Thanks for sharing!

  3. Nina Vizcarrondo

    Hey Ignas,
    I loved this post and will refer back to it especially because the “Using Technology with PBL” is so useful! This was the first time I heard of the 6 C’s and I think you did a great job presenting and explaining them. I also loved how you emphasized in genius hour the importance of letting the students work at their own pace. I think this is so essential and how we need to move forward in empathizing with our post pandemic learners.
    Thank you for writing about this!

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