The International Level – What does the future hold?
Teaching in the 21st Century has never been more exciting. We are constantly adding new opportunities for our students, reimagining what learning looks like, and exposing ourselves and our students to new skills that have been previously unheard of. The fact that I am teaching my students to code, having them create websites, or create videos utilizing green screen technologies demonstrates just how much education has changed in the last ten years. The article entitled Future Work Skills 2020 outlines six drivers of change that will have the greatest impact on our future. In addition, this article also describes the ten skills students require to be suc
cessful in the future. While skimming through this article, I became intrigued and decided to focus the content of my blog on these drivers and skills as they pertain to education.
The Six Drivers of Change:
- Extreme Longevity: So many times I have heard teachers comment that they are not interested in taking on technology in their classroom because they are “too old” or close to retirement. Judging from this article, people will be working longer and avoidance to learn something new because of age, is not excuse. We are teachers and leaders in our schools and therefore need to continually learning and improving our teaching practice. It is my opinion that this includes flattening our walls by including technology within our classrooms.
- Rise of Smart Machines and Systems: This point cannot help but make me think of the Jetsons! Watching that show so many years ago I saw so many tasks previously performed by humans being performed by robots or “smart machines”. I actually came across a great video discussing how the Jetson’s somewhat predicted our future and discussed how artificial intelligence (AI), or smart machines are not as far from our future as we may have originally thought!As for how this technology will impact education, it is hard to tell. Could these smart machines someday replace teachers? I have discussed in previous posts how technology has changed how I have taught my classroom and has already changed a lot of my pedagogy surrounding how students learn best. Technology has allowed me to take virtual field trips, bring specialists into my classroom via Skype, interact with classrooms around the globe, and even get PD in my pj’s! I believe these machines will continue to aid and support my teaching practice to allow me to offer my students the best opportunities while allowing students the exposure and experience they will require to use these same devices and technologies in the future.
- Computational World: The ability to collect, interpret, and manipulate data is increasingly important as we move into the digital
age. So much of what we do on a daily basis is catalogued and used to dictate what we see and what we are exposed to. The skill of reading data and analyzing it will continue to be relevant long into the future. How are we going to use this to prepare our students for their futures? What does this have to do with education? As teachers we are already collecting, interpreting, and analyzing data on a daily basis. We are then using that data to dictate how we proceed in our classrooms, how we adjust our teaching strategies, and how we reach our students. Students are already working on skills in collecting data when they are setting personal learning goals, tracking their progress, and making conclusions all based on their personal data. Taking these skills and applying them to the computational world is quite impressive. It would be quite interesting to create software to assist students in coding their goals and cataloguing their progress.
- New Media Ecology: Being media literate is a skill I am already teaching my students. The ability to identify and spot legitimate sources from illegitimate sources (aka Fake News) is a skill that students will continue to practice throughout their education. As I previously mentioned, new media is enhancing student experiences and exposing them to so many more opportunities previously unattainable or imaginable. We are flattening the walls of our classroom and enriching our students learning outcomes. This exposure, however, means it is increasingly important students are prepared and educated in all matters pertaining to digital citizenship and digital safety.
- Superstructured Organizations: Education has been evolving and changing over the past decade as a result of the integration of technology and many new innovative ways to teach. Today we see so many options when it comes to education that include flipping the classroom, offering distance or open education, and even assistive technology tools. These advancements have allowed education to continue to grow and keep up with the demands of the 21st century. How are we going to see the education industry continue to change as the years progress? What new structures or tools will be introduced to further enhance our students learning opportunities?
I cannot wait to see!
- Globally Connected World: This is true not only in the business industry, but within education as well. Within the 21st century, our students are more connected to the global world than ever before. Students are able to reach out to and learn from anyone, regardless of their physical location. We are able to consult and collaborate with professionals around the world and learn from each other to better enhance our own teaching practices. Being connected globally means we are bridging the gaps and allowing for better access to information and therefore more opportunities for our students.
These drivers are not only enriching our the world around us, but they are also changing the face of education. Our classrooms today are completely different from those we would have found 20 years ago (for the most case). Students are being exposed to new opportunities and learning in so many different ways. When we reflect on all of this, it is important for us to also reflect on the skills that will be important for our students to develop in order for them to continue to find success once their educational career is through.
10 Skills for the Future Workforce
Though I am not an advocate of using education as a factory to merely produce pupils for the workforce, I do have to admit part of the purpose of schooling is to help foster and develop skills students will require to be successful individuals once they graduate. I believe the skills discussed in this article are far more than the “cookie cutter” skills previously focussed on in the last century because they are not training students for a given field, but equipping them will skills to encourage them to be well-rounded and prepared for their future, regardless of where that leads them.
- Sense-Making: “The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.” As discussed in the drivers above, some of the factors of the future include the advancement of smart machines. We need to ensure our students are able to use their critical and creative thinking skills. These are skills that distinguish us from the robots. This is also a skill that is the hardest for students to build. We need to expose our students to opportunities to think outside the box, invent, evaluate, question, and conclude on their own. Encouraging our students to make sense of the world around them through observations and experiences will help them to build this skill with confidence.
- Social Intelligence: “The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.” Exposing students to experiences where they are building social skills and are able to not only read others emotions, but are able to react and modify their behaviours based on those emotions. Students begin working on this early on in their education. When students collaborate, or work in team situations, they are practicing their social intelligence and thereby building skills in empathy and understanding. They are learning how to work with different people in different social settings. They are problem solving and adjusting their behaviours to accommodate others. Again, in age of smart machines, this is something that will never be able to be duplicated or synthesized. To help you better understand what I find to be one of the most important of these skills, I have found a great video to better describe this intelligence.
- Novel and Adaptive Thinking: “The proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.” Being able to think of your feet and adapt as the situation changes are both important skills. Students need to be exposed to opportunities that encourage this form of skill development. Many times in education we want to prepare our students by setting them up with predictable situations that encourage planning but do not really challenge them to think of their feet. Encouraging students to come up with new plans or options when previous outcomes fail is a great way to build this skill with our students. Many times technology fails and we are asked to come up with a “plan B” quickly. Encouraging students to not panic, but to look at these “failures” as new opportunities and sometimes the best results come from this adaptive thinking.
- Cross-Cultural Competency: “The ability to operate in different cultural settings.” Living in a multicultural world means we need to be able to work with and understand many different cultures. We also need to adapt to many different working situations and styles. In addition the insurgence of diversity in the work force has brought with it the insurgence of innovation. Successful teams are those that are made up of members with varying backgrounds, ages and abilities. It is my opinion that students need to work in group settings with classmates of varying backgrounds and abilities to allow them the opportunities to understand how everyone’s differences make for better ideas to form. We need to encourage students to explore situations where they are required to problem solve, collaborate, and compromise in order for true innovation and growth to occur.
- Computational Thinking: “The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand
data-based reasoning.” Mathematical thinking has always been an important skill since the emergence of education. In recent years we have seen mathematical thinking evolve to include computational thinking. The concept of coding is relatively new to education. The idea of taking a series of directions, or codes, and building them into something that moves a character across the screen, or causes a player to complete a maze, is simply astonishing. Students now have the opportunity to build software and learn the basics of coding in a safe and engaging manner. Websites such as code.org and Scratch are free and offer great opportunities for students to develop these computational skills while creating something new. In the coming years it will be interesting to see how just how much we continue to work this form of thinking into our core curriculum studies.
- New Media Literacy: “The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.” In prior years, students have been expected to read articles and text and decipher what is being said while making predictions, inferences and connections. The 21st century learner also needs to learn to view media, such as videos, while still completing the same strategies practices with print media. The skills associated with not only viewing, but also creating this form of digital media are not entirely different from previously learned skills; however, they are used in a different manner. Ensuring we are giving our students opportunities to showcase their learning in a variety of forms, not just written text, ensuring we are building these new media skills and encouraging them to explore a variety of platforms. Previously, students learned to format a proper essay, today students need to learn how to utilize graphic design and format their presentations and videos in a manner that informs while still captivates the audience. This will mean taking risks and “playing” with a variety of software and programs.
- Transdisciplinary: “Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines.” The 20th century
education emphasized the importance of choosing a specialty and specializing in that field. However, the 21st century emphasizes the importance of being more well-rounded or well-versed in several different fields. This allows for a person to bring many different perspectives or outlooks forward rather than relying on several different “specialists” working on a singular project. Encouraging students to branch out and link additional curricular concepts into their educational exploration will assist in the development of this way of thinking. For instance, students may be learning about advancements in a historic civilization and while doing so, they make connections to their study of “simply machines”, particularly the pulley system, while determining how this civilization completed some of their more complex tasks. Bringing in their transdisciplinary skills means they are making predictions, inferences, and connections which allows for more critical and creative thinking. The emergence of STEM (or STEAM) is also a fantastic example of this transdisciplinary way of solving problems and applying learning.
- Design Mindset: “The ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.” Being able to think through projects, or design products are both great skills for learners to develop to help prepare them for a growing need in the 21st century. The ability to not only think through projects, but to also come up with innovative new ways of sharing knowledge while still meeting expectations is a skill that is increasingly important. Contemplating new and different options, while also working through and solving problems will help students to think outside the proverbial box and come up with new insightful ideas.
- Cognitive and Load Management: “The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.” There is so much information around us and we are constantly trying to learn and cram our minds with new knowledge daily. This overload of information causes some of us to hit a wall resulting in an information overload. This can be quite dangerous resulting in cognitive shut-down or stress induced melt-downs. Teaching students effective ways to deal with all the information they are learning so that they can recall and process that information in a timely manner will be increasingly important. It is important to teach students to filter their information and determine what is important, while still learning new things. This can be a struggle as students tend to get overwhelmed when learning new facts. One strategy that works is to chunk the information, or utilize flow-charts to help group information thereby focussing on the key details rather than larger picture.
- Virtual Collaboration: “The ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a
member of a virtual team.” Virtual learning and the global virtual world are going to continue to grow well past the 21st century. Students now have the ability to take virtual field trips without leaving their desks. They can meet and collaborate on book clubs with students around the world. These learning opportunities are important for students because they are a reality of the workforce today. Meeting with clients who reside across the globe, or working the a global team on a project are all real expectations. Working with others while meeting digitally requires a different set of skills. We do not always have the privilege of sitting in a board room discussing a project for hours, so we need to plan ahead our talking points, keep our meetings concise, and communicate effectively to ensure we are making the most of the time spent in this virtual world. We need to ensure students experience these opportunities so they are prepared for this once they reach the workforce.
The workforce is constantly changing. These skills demonstrate how we need to also be changing how we are educating our students to best prepare them for their futures. We cannot be stagnant while teaching young people. We need to constantly be changing our teaching strategies to meet the growing expectations in this 21st century. I know this article certain kept me thinking and re-evaluating what I am doing in my classroom. I am assessing my teaching practice to ensure I am giving my students opportunities to practice and building competence in these skills to ensure they are prepared for whatever lies ahead.