If not now, when? And why not already?


I love my job (in saying this I have been in my new position now for 1 day and 134 minutes…), however, I am really meaning teaching, working in schools and doing what my role/s over the past 13 years have involved.

I have also in that time developed a greater presence online via social media through connecting and sharing with of educators the world over. The following, and writing of, blogs has also led to my growth professionally.

Now in this time I have read a lot and mainly within EdTech and Leadership circles about the need to drive and promote change within education systems. This ‘chatter’ has been ongoing and I adore hearing the endless stream of people’s views on the various matters that have us all up in arms from time to time. One such blog post which I recently very much enjoyed was penned…? keyed…? by Richie Lambert titled ‘It’s time to kill off ‘e-learning’ & ’21st century skills‘. This is a fantastic post that looks at the divide between old and new teaching methodologies and thinking, and how this is damaging what matters and that being student learning.

As Richie stated at the beginning of his post, one of the largest ‘streams’ of ongoing conversation has been heavily focused around 21st Century Learning and preparing students for what lies ahead after they complete their schooling journeys. We know that the world is rapidly changing due to the many technological advancements and we have also heard that employers are now looking for skills in potential employees that are vastly different from what they were once perhaps looking for. Now the aforementioned conversation stream I mentioned is this, that our educational models and frameworks are somewhat failing to adequately prepare our students for this new world and what the future ahead of them may hold.

I completely agree that we as educators in this day and age need to incorporate more of these so called ’21st century’ skills in to put programs but certainly not at the expense of more traditional curriculum content. This post however is not about arguing that debate.

One document that I have referenced since its release in 2011 is the “Future Work Skills 2020” published by the Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute.

The report outlines 6 key drivers which are ‘disruptive shifts’ that will drastically alter what the workforces of the future will be like. Lined to these are 10 ‘key skills’ that people will need to be successful in the workforces of the future.

These are outlined below in the embedded graphic.


Below I have included the descriptors taken from the report that briefly outlines what each key skill is asking from potential employees.

  1. Sense Making: ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed
  2. Social Intelligence: ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions
  3. Novel & adaptive thinking: proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
  4. Cross-cultural competency: ability to operate in different cultural settings
  5. Computational thinking: ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
  6. New-media literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  7. Transdisciplinarity: literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
  8. Design mindset: ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
  9. Cognitive load management: ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
  10. Virtual collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team.

I suppose my question is why is there not more being done to facilitate and drive the promotion of these skills within the education system/s? There is little doubt that we as educators are deeply passionate about developing most if not all of these skills in our learners, and if not these skills themselves, others very similar.

The skills outlined above via the IFTF of course have implications for various organisations and institutions worldwide. An excerpt taken from the aforementioned report states;

“To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements. They will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these.

“Workers in the future will need to be adaptable lifelong learners.”

Educational institutions at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels, are largely the products of technology infrastructure and social circumstances of the past. The landscape has changed and educational institutions should consider how to adapt quickly in response. Some directions of change might include:

» Placing additional emphasis on developing skills such as critical thinking, insight, and analysis capabilities

» Integrating new-media literacy into education programs

» Including experiential learning that gives prominence to soft skills—such as the ability to collaborate, work in groups, read social cues, and respond adaptively

» Broadening the learning constituency beyond teens and young adults through to adulthood » Integrating interdisciplinary training that allows students to develop skills and knowledge in a range of subjects” .

When you read through the 10 Key Skills and even the ideas above for direction change and integration, what comes to mind that you and or your colleagues are doing to support the development of these skills?

I would like to think that we as educators we are already embedding these key skills. I know that within my own teaching and learning I have focused on students developing their critical thinking skills and ability to analyse various sets of data. The ability to not only collaborate and work effectively in a group but to do so in an online environment.

As support of this, In 2012 the ‘Institute for Public Policy Research’ released a report titled ‘Oceans of Innovation, The Atlantic, The Pacific, global leadership and the future of education.’ This is a very good short read that discusses how those countries in and around the Pacific Rim will in fact lead the world in development, economy, leadership and education in the next 50 years and how driving innovation will drive this. One great passage from this text I have embedded below.

The road to hell in education is paved with false dichotomies. One of the more devastating of these, because it is so thoroughly misleading, is the belief that systems which ensure high standards in reading, writing and arithmetic inevitably do so at the expense of creativity, thinking, individuality and so on.” – Pg 48.

The need to ‘add’ to current curriculum is not needed whatsoever. The blending and integration of problem based learning, challenged based learning and even more tradition models of Inquiry Based Learning can assist greatly in the development of skills which are not taught in an isolated fashion. Design thinking, critical thinking, computational thinking, problem solving, etc… can all be encouraged, and more often than not are, through various models of inquiry.

Personally I believe that it comes down to teachers having effective and developing pedagogy to best teach and prepare our students with the skills and knowledge that will see them become successful. Period. If developing core skills such as those outlined by IFTF in conjunction and alongside with current curriculum content, then I am confident our students will be heading off into the big wide world with the effective skill sets they need.

So if you are educating a cohort of young and enquiring minds… are you preparing them adequately for what their future will most likely entail? And if not, why not? 😉

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