Future skills that students need

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Welcome to this week’s post. Inside, we explore future skills, how skills shortages are inspiring new forms of collaboration between community colleges and employers, and why traditional academic pathways and credentialing may no longer be relevant. We also share what one global leader thinks learning should look like, and why the educational technology industry faces challenges in the marketplace and what this means for teachers.

The future of learning and work will likely involve increasingly technical tasks with rapidly evolving and changing skill sets. The level of education required is post-high school diploma but not quite four year degree material, and developing this skill level has traditionally fallen to community colleges.

This article shares how employers have often been reluctant to work with community colleges, but this appears to be changing out of necessity. Apple and Facebook are forming relationships with community institutions, and companies are expanding their internal training divisions in collaboration with external partners such as community colleges.

Such is the need for qualified people in future, the idea is that companies jointly develop a talent pipeline to grow entire industries, rather than simply competing with each other for the best people. Google’s IT Support Certificate Programme is a good example of how this might work in practice. Google has put together a consortium of 20 major companies that have agreed to recognise this qualification and hire graduates (if needed), and Google runs the programme with no profit to keep costs down for students.

The result is close collaboration between learning providers and employers and between employers – something we’re going to need to see a lot more of to meet an ever-growing skills shortage that is likely to accelerate. The implications for learning are that education must not exist in a bubble – it has to be connected to the real world, and not just on a superficial level. This relationship must start early, with schools involving their learning communities – not just families and caregivers, but authentically involving organisations and businesses so that students have the opportunity to find out what they do and understand how they work.

Elon Musk has an interesting take on what learning should look like. He has quietly developed a school of about 50 students as a result of wanting more for his own children’s learning. So far, so normal, but this school breaks a few barriers aside from its emphasis on inquiry and project-based learning:

1. There are no sports, music or languages.
2. There is a heavy emphasis on science, math, engineering and ethics.
3. The students write about half of the curriculum themselves, and can opt out of whatever they’re not interested in.
4. More traditional-style lessons include creative writing and computer science.
5. There is no testing or grading at all – only authentic feedback during the learning process and of whatever product or solution is produced.

It’s an interesting concept: learning is relevant and practical with a high degree of collaboration, the students are engaged and motivated, and engaging with and trying to solve actual challenges that the world faces.

But without the likes of sports, languages and music is it a balanced programme? Does that even matter? Is this the type of learning we need to see?

As the world of work changes rapidly and the competencies people need to thrive in the new workplace evolve, we often see ‘creativity’ listed as an essential skill that all must learn and embrace. But what is creativity, and can be learned?

Walt Disney has been well recognised as a creative genius, and his method of discovering creative ideas and turning them into reality has been modelled and is being used by creative teams to generate, evaluate and critique ideas and solve problems.

The strategy is based on the three modes of operating that Disney’s colleagues observed in him: the dreamer, the realist and the critic. The dreamer shares ideas and dreams without criticism or restriction, and all ideas are recorded and accepted. The realist asks how logical planning can be applied to the ideas and then can be turned into reality. The critic seeks to identify barriers and obstacles to the plan.

Disney’s team never knew which mode Disney was going to adopt in any meeting on any given day, and as such they learned to operate within all three modes almost simultaneously, thereby disseminating Disney’s method and flair for creativity across the organisation. The model in this article seeks to systemise Disney’s creative approach and immerse teams within a creative process.

Can this process, or any other be learned? Of course it can. Can creativity be learned? To varying degrees almost certainly, and cognitive barriers to creativity can be reduced or removed. Do our students have the opportunity to become immersed in and practice the application of creative models as they go about their work at school?

In this article, Tom Friedman shares his thoughts with the Wall Street Journal, via The Exponential View. He has identified companies both automating and augmenting human work, with the companies doing it best creating “… STEMpathy jobs – jobs that combine science, technology, engineering, and math with human empathy, the ability to connect with another human being”.

He also describes his five pieces of advice for his daughters:

1. Think like an immigrant, as we’re all new to this age of acceleration.
2. Think like an artisan, add your unique, personal brand to everything you do so you can never be automated or outsourced.
3. Always be in BETA – learn, unlearn and relearn constantly.
4. Curiosity quotient and passion quotient is more important than intelligence quotient.
5. Think entrepreneurially, no matter where you are and what you do. Ask yourself: How and where can I start a new business?

Do students in our schools have the opportunity to engage with and explore these ideas and opportunities? Are they finding out about how work is changing and what they’ll need to prosper? If not, why not?

The final article we are sharing this week argues that the benefits of learning to code are overstated, with the evidence suggesting that languages currently in use may die out, and Artificial Intelligence will eventually take over the bulk of this work. Robert C. Wolcott argues that “… a singular focus on “learning to code” can impede attention to the much more important skill of understanding how technology works, and the opportunities and risks within systems and society. Fascinating.

Is learning to code simply learning about modern technology in a manner that is essentially unchanged from learning 60 years ago? Or, is it a fundamental skill in this changing technological world?

Too much learning in schools globally remains knowledge-centred and teacher-driven, by design constraining or eliminating these skills in our students and not preparing them to thrive. Systemic constraints do not allow talented and passionate teachers to model these skills, nor realise their potential for themselves as professionals or their students, and dynamic skill-based learning remains the domain of a minority in top international and private schools, gifted education and homeschool programmes.

How can learning providers and employers collaborate to ensure that people have the skills they need to thrive in a new era of work? What do global leaders in innovation perceive as being most important when it comes to learning? Why do schools need to be careful when exploring options for online and technology-based learning?

The research conducted and insights gained during the writing of this article have inspired the Indigo Schools Framework, the details of which can found in the Primer on our Resources Page. Send us an email at info@indigoschools.net or complete the form below if you’d like to learn more about how the Indigo Schools Framework can be successfully applied within your school. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Linkedin for our latest updates.

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