Thursday, February 2, 2012

Preparing Our Students For Their (uncertain) Future

As responsible 21st Century educators, and lifelong learners committed to staying current with educational theory, I do not believe I've met anyone who does not take our responsibility to prepare our students for the their adult life seriously.

In speaking with parents and community members over the years, I do not believe I've met anyone who does not recognize that the world has changed from when most of us were young adults and that we need to build a solid foundation of basic skills in our students as well as preparing them for the collaborative and fluid future they will face.

But, when all the rhetoric is said and done, what does all that mean?  What does it mean to say the world is different?  The Shift Happens video series started by Scott McLeod and Karl Fisch do a great job of quantifying how our society has changed over time.  If you've not seen those videos, I think you should take 15 minutes and watch them.  You're likely to be amazed by some of the statistics.

Drilling down even deeper however, and thinking about our current environment, I read an interesting statistic this morning that I believe does a great job of driving this point home as well.  According to an article in Business Week by David. J. Lynch, the United States currently manufactures 25% more goods than just 12 years ago, yet (and here is the important point), the number of workers used to create those goods remains the exact same.

As production increases, and labor rates stay the same, it is not a result of workers increasing output or hours by 25%.  Rather, automation and an increase in the use of machines and technology is the culprit.

Increased manufacturing, if this statistic is true, is not likely enough then to break an economy free from a recession, depression, or even just a major slowdown.  I expect automation is only likely to increase in the future, not decrease, bringing even fewer jobs to the market.

Instead, as author Daniel Pink suggests in his book A Whole New Mind, we need to increase the number of knowledge jobs, and prepare our students to assume those positions.  To prepare students to create and apply new knowledge, on a broad scale, will require some changes to how the education system and schools work.

To help parents and the community understand the reasoning behind these changes, it HAS TO BE our job to help sell the change.  We have to help create the vision by engaging in the conversations about education reform in our communities!  We need to create a shift in understanding so that parents value these skills and recognize the need for educational change and then we need to accept that we ourselves have to change first before we get our students to change.

That is going to be hard, I think.

As education reform progresses, I see the comments by parents in the newspaper reflecting their belief in traditional system.  It is our responsibility to engage our communities in the discussions that will help them build the understanding of what the future holds, and what being prepared for the future represents.

Project-based learning is in our future.  Problem solving, both individually and as a member of a team, at all levels must be a core skill.  Creativity is something to be valued, and therefore we must foster it in our schools.  Our future depends on it.

As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, "If you don't know where you are going, then any road will take you there."  We need to know where we are going so we can help everyone in our communities get on the right road.

I believe in where I see us/our system heading.  Do youagree that we are on the right road??


No comments: