Saturday, June 6, 2015

Future work skills and the future of education

I'm moving this week an having a good sort out, and while doing this I came across 2 articles that I had put on the coffee table some time ago and meant to get to but never did.  This post is about these 2 articles.

The first one is from KnowledgeWorks and is entitled Glimpses of the Future of Education  (click here to see the infographic that has been created about future learning - the graphic to the top left of this post is a small part of this infographic).  KnowledgeWorks has studied future trends for the past 10 years and predicts deep disruption for education.  One forecast is that learning is going to diversity leading to a flexible and radically personalized learning ecosystem that meets the needs of all learners.  The new ecosystem will include building relationships with museums, libraries and other cultural institutions enabling learners to move seamlessly across many kinds of learning experiences and providers.  Learning will therefore no longer be simply defined by time or place but can be designed to include individualized "learning playlists", with formative assessment leading to the approaches being tailored to each learner.  Formative assessment will use digital tools to collect rich data about what will be the most effective strategies for success.  In this scenario educators' jobs will diversity, with new roles emerging to support learning ("teacherpreneurs").  Virtual learning communities will also be part of this infrastructure, leading to more diverse forms of credentials, certificates and reputation markers.

The second article that I've been meaning to blog about for some time is simply entitled Future Work Skills 2020 from the Institute for the Future and the University of Phoenix Research Institute.  The report is around 4 years old, but still very relevant to consider when thinking about how close we are now to 2020.   Here the six drivers of change are seen as extreme longevity which leads to an ageing population that will work long beyond 65 with multiple careers (and so will need to be lifelong learners), the rise of smart machines and systems, a new media ecology, a computational world, superstructed organizations and a globally connected world.  At the same time that these factors are causing change, there are new skills that are in demand - in particular the sorts of skills that can't be done by machines.   These skills are:

  1. Sense making - the ability to determine deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.
  2. Social intelligence - the ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
  3. Novel and adaptive thinking - coming up with solutions and responses beyond those that are rote or rule based.
  4. Cross-cultural competency - in particular linguistic and an ability to sense and respond to new contexts.
  5. Computational thinking skills - the ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning.
  6. New-media literacy - the ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.  The next generation of workers need to be fluent in forms such as video and to be comfortable creating and presenting their own visual information.
  7. Transdisciplinary - understanding concepts across multiple disciplines.
  8. A design mindset
  9. Cognitive load management - social filtering to allow the more relevant information to rise above " the noise", and understanding how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques.
  10. Virtual collaboration - the ability to work productively as a member of a virtual team.
According to the report, the sort of education that needs to be in place to promote these skills has to change.  There should be additional emphasis on developing critical thinking skills and analysis, and new-media literacy should be integrated throughout the curriculum.  Experiential learning is becoming more important, and that gives prominence to soft skills such as collaboration.  In addition there needs to be more focus on continuing education into adulthood.  More emphasis should be given to interdisciplinary training that allows students to develop skills and knowledge in a range of subjects.   

When I look at the list of 10 skills needed for the 2020 workforce I can see some schools are embracing them more than others.  Programmes such as the PYP are transdisciplinary in nature, and assessments are designed to show understanding, rather than simply factual recall.  In recent years at ASB we have also seen the introduction of design thinking in many different areas of the curriculum.  However 2020 is only 5 years away.  One of the things that these reports has made me realize is that the changes that need to happen to get our students ready for the workplace of 2020 are still long overdue.

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