Prepare to be indispensable by 2020 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Acquire these top ten skills you need to thrive in the next five years.
Not long ago, I wrote a blog post entitled: Lifelong Learning is an Essential Skill, not a Buzzword. The more I read about future-readiness, 21st century skills, job market reports, and advances in technology (especially AI), the more I understand this to be true. Recently, PEW Research published a report on the Future of Jobs & Job Training.
This report reaffirmed the fact that in the near future, millions of jobs will be lost to automation and AI that can do these tasks not only just as well, but often better than their human counterparts. These are not just rudimentary, repeatable tasks, but sophisticated, white-collar jobs that have generally been considered “safe” from automation: dermatologists, journalists, claims adjusters, financial reporters, and more. With the rise of automated driving, millions of workers who rely on driving as their means of employment are looking at becoming obsolete (long-haul truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery wo/men, and more).
Pushing aside the very real, and daunting, questions of what this means for our job market and even Capitalism, for educators and parents this means: how do we prepare students for the stark realities of an ever shifting job market? While new technologies may be depleting jobs, knowing how to leverage them will become an even more essential skill in the future.
“The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. At the same time, recent IT advances offer new and potentially more widely accessible ways to access education.”
Looking at how and when people learn job skills and other training will also need to be examined. Will a traditional high school, college, and beyond model remain the default given the rapidly changing employment models?
“A central question about the future, then, is whether formal and informal learning structures will evolve to meet the changing needs of people who wish to fulfill the workplace expectations of the future.”
PEW delves deeply into this topic, asking experts about their vision of the future and determined 5 Major Themes:
Considering the uncertainty of the future, what we do know is that we must prepare young people to be flexible and agile learners, critical thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators, and to know that they must develop a passion and drive for lifelong learning.
While the article is long, I strongly encourage my readers to check out PEW’s publication and put together your own thoughts.
When I am asked “What is the most important skill for students to learn these days” I always answer “The ability to effectively collaborate.” This answer often surprises people; as an ed tech director, they assume I am going to talk about programming
or STEM-centric topics. However, if my students leave my classroom having learned one thing, I want them to come away knowing how to collaborate effectively with others.
When we talk about schools preparing children for college and career, we often think about course content, when in reality we should think about what we want them to be able to do. Think about what you do in your job and career. Is it done in isolation? Your greatest achievements, were they obtained solo? For most of us, the answer is no! We often work in teams, sometimes with people in our office as peers, superiors, and/or subordinates; we may also collaborate with people outside of workplace. However, we almost never work in isolation. Therefore, the most essential “soft” skill for success is the ability to play well with others.
However, engaging in “group work” is often loathed by students and teachers. Why? Because someone often feels saddled with the bulk of the work, students may not get along with their team-mates, it can be a challenge to navigate calendars or delegate tasks, as well as numerous other hurdles. All of these are true, even when group work is done “right.” However, these challenges are exactly why students should be tackling group assignments and projects; they need to learn how to navigate these problems in order to effectively tackle them in life. For example, have you had to have a challenging conversation with a colleague? How did you deal with someone on your team who couldn’t meet deadlines? What do you do to find time for working effectively both as a team and on your own? Like any other skill (playing the piano, running the mile, or learning a new language), learning how to engage in collaborative work takes practice and experience. By exposing children to engage in these dynamics throughout their academic careers, we prepare students to tackle them as they progress in their academic studies and their careers. So embrace “group work” and all of its messiness!
As always, some great tips from the esteemed Carl Hooker!
A new school year always brings about new ideas and hopeful ambition for teachers. However, it’s almost 2015. Gone are the days when we can use the excuse that “we don’t do technology”. Part of being a teacher in the 21st century is being creative in integrating academics and learning into student’s digital lives. With access to content being ubiquitous and instant in student’s out of school lives, we can either reject their world for our more traditional one, or embrace it.
While some of the ideas that follow may seem a bit trendy, it’s never hurts to model ways to interact with all this new media as a covert way of teaching digital literacy and citizenship. The great news is, you don’t need every student to have a device to make these happen. Heck, in most cases all you would need is a single smart…
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This is reblogged from my post on PLPVoices.
So how are we doing on the push to teach “digital literacy” across the K12 school spectrum? From my perspective as a school-based technology director and history teacher, I’d say not as well as we might wish – in part because our traditional approach to curriculum and instruction wants to sort everything into its place.
Digital literacy is defined as “the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate, and create information using a range of digital technologies.” Many educational and business professional cite is as a critical 21st century skill. Even so, many schools have struggled to adapt it into their curriculum.
This is often because most institutions already have rigorous, established curricula with little wiggle room – and this is especially true in schools subject to state and federal testing. Content becomes king. However, there are ways that schools can adapt these skills into existing structures – integrating them into their current pedagogical framework.
Evaluating online content is a research skill
Administrators often tell me they cannot meet new digital literacy requirements because they cannot add a “digital literacy” course or requirement. Here’s the other way: the need for students to “critically navigate and evaluate” online content is better viewed as an extension of research skills. Just as we don’t teach a class called “research,” we do not need to teach “evaluating online content” as a separate course or unit of study. We should teach research skills in the context of existing subject matter.
For example, when my students do research in US History, they are not only allowed butencouraged to use online content. However, when using internet material (as opposed to a peer reviewed article or an academic book), they need to include further evaluation of the content.
One of my favorite tools to use in doing this is the CRAAP test developed by the University of California at Chico. This method requires students to evaluate a source based on its Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. In fact, this method could easily be applied to “traditional” sources as well. (Here’s a public source handout.)
With the rise of academics who write blogs and use social media (such as Twitter and Facebook), and given the wealth of self-published content generally, pertinent information is now moving away from traditional forms. A student in science can learn a great deal from Neil Degrass Tyson’s Podcast; in fact, it’s likely a more accessible medium for young students than his published articles. Additionally, students need to know what online content they can reproduce and how to credit it properly (digital ethics).
The problem students face in the new world is no longer access to information, but rather how to deal with the glut of content that confronts them when they google a research topic. If we want them to effectively navigate online material (as 21st century learners), then research now needs to include not only “traditional” methods and materials, but digital ones as well. We need to ensure that they know how to evaluate a website, a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook entry. These evaluative skills transfer cross curricularly and prepare students for the broader world of online communication.
Engaging online is a modern communication skill
Engaging in effective discourse and debate is a necessary skill that many of us learned in school via class discussions, group activities, classroom debates, in class presentations, etc. Being able to effectively communicate is a requirement to success in many facets of life (academia, business, personal life, etc).
In our emerging digital world, a new medium of exchange has developed: online engagement, especially via social media. Effectively engaging online requires a myriad of skills that we strive to foster in school – effective written communication, brevity and civility. These components are often highlighted in Digital Citizenship programs, but in tradition-bound K12 education, we often deride social media as trite or ineffective.
However, social media use has quickly grown in professional and academic realms. I recently had a conversation with a friend from my high school days, Brian Muse. Brian is a successful attorney with a practice focused on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). The primary focus of our conversation was the role that social media plays in Brian’s practice.
Even I (an avid proponent of the power of online engagement) was surprised at how much value Brian and his peers put on social media. In addition to maintaining an active Twitter account (with the full encouragement of his firm), he also writes a blog on relevant ADA law.
Brian told me that social media, especially Twitter, is an effective tool for legal professionals in several ways: networking, branding, and research. As an attorney in a dynamic field, it’s his job to predict where the law is going; Twitter serves as an effective crowdsourcing medium for him to take the pulse of labor law. His online presence and engagement (through his blog and Twitter account) allows him to share his knowledge with others and has led to several referrals from attorneys or chambers of commerce.
Speaking both a professional and a parent, Brian told me: “Any child that graduates high school with these skills will have such a leg up in this business world.”
Just as we anticipate that the traditional communication skills we teach children as part of our established curriculum will translate to a broader skill set, so will their ability to engage with people safely and effectively online. Likewise, just as we do not need to establish a separate curriculum or class for “digital literacy,” we can incorporate updated 21st century communication skills across our established curricular models.
Students need to create. Projects become digital.
If you are familiar with the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, then you know that creation is at the highest order of learning. Teachers recognize this; it’s why we give students various projects and assignments: a science experiment, a research essay, a model UN debate, etc. With new technologies, students have the ability to create dynamic, multi-media projects quickly and easily. By combining these tools with a sophisticated topic, we can engage students in new and creative ways.
For example, my history students make documentaries for class. This project requires that they perform sophisticated research (using both traditional and digital resources), incorporate a variety of media (images, video, sound, etc), they must write, and then they present/peer review in class. This modernized research project addresses all of the elements of digital literacy in my classroom yet doesn’t require additional in or out of class time to implement. It is an effective way to engage my students in effective, 21st century learning.
One reason that teachers are often hesitant to adopt new technologies or give students digitally enhanced assignments is because they themselves are unfamiliar with the available tools – and suppose that giving a “Movie Project” requires that they teach about movie making software. I try to encourage my faculty to “let go.” Tell the students what the final project should look like (such as a video) and then tell them to pick the venue that works best for them to create a finished project.
New technology is easy to use/navigate and with YouTube and online blogs, students can easily teach themselves how to use them. Now this doesn’t mean that faculty should not learn these new tools. In fact, I often challenge my faculty to use MovieMaker for their laptops or iMovie on their iPads to create a video of anything they want (their children, a pet, a favorite sports team).
Not only do they discover how easy it is to use the software, they see how quickly they can overcome any hurdles they encounter in the process. In fact, I often tout creative problem solving as important skill for students to develop – projects like this help them to develop those skills.
Digital Literacy: An everyday dimension of learning
Digital Literacy is a crucial skill that we as educators must foster and encourage in our classrooms (and administrators must support in the broader curriculum). I hope that these examples have helped to demonstrate how 21st century skills do not require additional class time or new course development. They often do require some tweaking of our established curricula.
I strongly encourage administrators to provide robust professional development and learning time for their staff and faculty. Your teachers can integrate digital literacy into everyday learning, provided you share the resources and support they need to shift a traditional curriculum to a more innovative one. If you do, our students will be better digital citizens and curators of online content; a necessary skill for success in the 21st century and a valuable contribution to civil society.