(Thank you @Lynch39083 for inviting me to reflect on this topic!)
What will education look like in 5, 10, 20 years from now? How are we going to prepare today’s students in JK (graduating in 2032) for ANYTHING? In a recent post by Christopher Dede in Education Week, he states that «…our children and students face a future of multiple careers, not just jobs.» This is true. People are living longer, and as a result are working many more years during the course of their lives. For our students today, this probably equates to having to prepare for multiple careers in their lifetime (doesn’t career sound much better than job?). I guess we can call it a «career of reinventing oneself».
So what does that mean for our schools and the way we need to educate? Here are some key elements that come to my mind that can help our students prepare for what awaits them in the future.
Competency-Based Learning, Not Content-Based Learning
Although some content must be taught by the teacher and learned by the students, a textbook’s table of contents should not be the guide to lesson planning. Just going through the textbook doesn’t cut it anymore. Learning is not about memorizing information, then regurgitating it on a test. Learning is about developing abilities, experiencing challenges, mastering concepts through critical thinking, and growing as a contributing individual in our society. Learning is about being able to make a difference in our world, in our own unique way.
We do not grow at the same rate, nor in the same way. Yet we continue to require our students to master concepts or skills in a specific time frame, usually ending with a summative evaluation. Whether there is mastery or not, the test will take place.
What if students moved on only after having demonstrated mastery of the competencies that are being studied with the help of a portfolio? What would that look like? Would this model of learning «fit» within the current (outdated) educational model, or would we need an overhaul? How does technology facilitate competency-based learning? We may not have all the answers to these questions yet, but it sure is a great way to differentiate learning to meet individual needs.
Developing Transferable Skills
If we are now faced with building a career of reinventing ourselves, we will require transferable skills. The skills that are mastered and needed for our first career must be useful and transferable to the second career, and third, … Lets take my career path as an example:
Teacher ⇒ Principal ⇒ Pedagogical Leader and Leadership Coach ⇒ ?
The skills that I mastered have helped me become a successful teacher. They have also in turn greatly served me as a school administrator. Because of these core skills, I was able to build on them and have a positive impact on students and staff as a school principal. I like to call these «augmented skills».
In my present position as Pedagogical Leader and Leadership Coach, these augmented skills have been indispensable for my growth as a leader. I would not be where I am today if not for them. And as I reflect on the work that I do, I realize that these skills are being «augmented» once again – like adding more (and different) tools in our toolbox.
Imagine this conversation between a teacher and a student:
Teacher: «What career are you interested in?»
Student: «I think I would love to work in construction! I love building things with my mom!»
Teacher: «That’s awesome! How long do you see yourself doing this type of work? Could you see yourself going even further later on in your life?»
Student: «Well, I hadn’t thought about that, but yeah maybe after a few years I could start my own construction company? You know, have a crew working on different construction projects?»
Teacher: «What an interesting idea! I actually have a friend that owns a construction company. What skills do you think you would need as a construction worker, but would also benefit you as a business owner?»
I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
Transferable skills can be the mortar between our career blocks. These are the skills that should be emphasized in our schools (present and future).
Globalization, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Critical Thinking
People today are more connected than ever. Gone are the days when we were mostly aware of what was going on in our own city, and much, much less of what was going on elsewhere in the world. Today, people in one country can easily help a worthy cause in another, without even physically travelling there. With a few clicks of the keyboard or swipes on our smartphones, we can find out what is happening anywhere in the world. Thanks to technology, anything and (pretty much) everything is possible. This is the world we live in. A world of easily accessible information (true and false), of collective intelligence, communication, and of globalization. Will our students be able to sort out all of this information? To be able to determine if a piece of news is real or fake has become a necessity, a part of how we must function. Critical thinking skills are and will continue to be an important tool to develop.
I love what Christopher Dede wrote about AI:
«In preparing students for the future, we should think less about AI and more about IA, or intelligence amplification: The idea that digital devices complement our human strengths to enable accomplishments beyond what either machines or people can do alone.»
What does the interaction between student and tech look like in our schools today? We need less substitution-level interactions (see SAMR model), and more interactions that lead to transformation and creation. Interactions that foster innovation and critical thinking, as well as intellectual, emotional, and social development. These interaction are needed to help our students succeed and grow today, and in the future.
One of the things I like most about the deep learning process is that it involves learning for transfer – taking something you learned in a specific situation and applying it to a different one (Transferable Skills). This can be achieved through project-based learning with authentic real-life problems to solve. This challenges students to think critically, to communicate efficiently, and to collaborate with others. With project-based learning, students can go across all subjects. I also believe that deep learning develops lifelong learners, a thirst for knowledge, to strive to be better, and have a positive impact.
How are we providing deep learning opportunities for our students? What does that pedagogy look like? Are we engaging them intellectually and emotionally? Do they feel connected to what they are learning? Our students must be equipped to be able to solve complex issues, therefore we need to expose them to as many real world learning situations as possible. Let them tackle these issues together with fellow students. They will be more engaged, will connect with others (people, community), and will build self-confidence. Project-based learning is a great way to dive into deep learning.
As I visit schools throughout the province, I see some amazing teachers providing authentic learning opportunities for their students. Many of these are project-based learning, taking on current issues within their communities or elsewhere in the world. It is awesome to see, not only because I think they are making a difference, but because the students and teachers know they are making a difference. Their biggest challenge? Traditional school structure, schedule, and calendar. I believe that these 3 elements must be overhauled for the future of education. But that is an entirely other blog post.
I also see many teachers still acting as the “sage on the stage”, while students are sitting at their desks, in rows, disengaged and unhappy. I feel bad for both those students and their teachers, because everyone is missing out on what could be great and exciting learning. How do we help these teachers transform their pedagogy?
So what will the future of education look like? I’m not entirely sure, but I do hope it will look like real life.