This article addresses the competences needed in twenty-first-century life, especially in relation to civic participation, and the educational requirements to foster them in young people. New technologies are widely used by young people for informal social interaction, video game-playing and giving voice to their views. Incorporation of these practices into the classroom has been fairly slow, despite their manifest potential for promoting agency and civic engagement. The article argues that this is in part due to the need for a cultural shift in education to accommodate them. Currently, many competences young people will need for the future world of interactive technology and ‘bottom-up’ information, communication and democracy are mainly being developed through informal practices. These competences, which include adaptability, managing ambiguity and agency are discussed in relation to civic participation.