Tag Archives: work

Are we teaching our students the skills they need for their future?

Are we teaching our students the skills they need for their future?

Do we know what these are and if we do, are we aligning these to our curriculum? Are we making the shift necessary for this to happen?

Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group has identified what he calls a “global achievement gap,” which is the leap between what even our best schools are teaching, and the must-have skills of the future: * Critical thinking and problem-solving * Collaboration across networks and leading by influence * Agility and adaptability * Initiative and entrepreneurialism * Effective oral and written communication * Accessing and analyzing information * Curiosity and imagination

Here are the 10 future work skills identified by The Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute.

  1. Sense Making
  2. Novel and Adaptive Thinking
  3. Transdisciplinary
  4. Social Intelligence
  5. New Media Literacy
  6. Computational Thinking
  7. Cognitive Load Management
  8. Design Management
  9. Cross Cultural Competence
  10. Virtual Collaboration

For teacher librarians, these skills clearly identify our areas of expertise at a time when some principals are making decisions to reduce staffing in school libraries, or replace teacher librarians with librarians or technicians, indicating their loss of faith that teacher librarians are an essential part of the teaching staff. Our strength lies in working with teachers to embed these skills in student learning, to encourage collaborative platforms and relational learning through the connections made possible by social media platforms, to embed critical, digital and information literacies into student learning.

Read more about the skills our students must have for their future here and here. Please share more if you have them.

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16 habits of highly creative people

Most people would deny being creative. Have you noticed that? People who display obvious creativity, but who say, ‘Who me? I’m not creative!’  It’s the strange fallacy that in order to be creative you have to be good at drawing or play an instrument like a prodigy.

Ken Robinson talks about creativity. I’ve written previously about his TED talk and his book, The element. He has also written a paper entitled Creativity in the classroom, innovation in the workplace. in response to the following question:

What should be the role of business and industry in the education of today’s youth, and what strategies can realistically be put in place by business now to foster innovation on the widest possible range of platforms?

Ken begins by saying the following:

Businesses everywhere have to compete in a world that’s changing faster than ever. To keep pace they need people who can consistently generate new ideas and adapt to constant change. Many companies say it’s getting harder to find these people. One of the major reasons is education. All over the world, formal education systematically suppresses creative thinking and flexibility. National strategies to raise standards in education are making matters worse because they’re rooted in an old model of economic development and a narrow view of intelligence. For economic, cultural and political reasons, creativity should be promoted systematically at all levels of education, alongside literacy and numeracy.

According to Ken, the problem in the workplace is not a shortage of graduates, but something entirely different:

Companies now face an unusual crisis in graduate recruitment. It’s not that there aren’t enough graduates to go around, it’s that too many of them can’t communicate, work in teams or think creatively.

 Shalu Wasu, a Singapore-based trainer and consultant,  conducts open programs on Creativity and Innovation and Blogging for Business at NUS extension. He offers 16 habits of highly creative people on the Tickled by life website.

1. Creative people are full of curiosity.

2. Creative people are problem-friendly.

3. Creative people value their ideas.

4. Creative people embrace challenges.

5. Creative people are full of enthusiasm.

6. Creative people are persistent.

7. Creative people are perennially dissatisfied.

8. Creative people are optimists.

9. Creative people make positive Judgment.

10. Creative people go for the big kill.

11. Creative people are prepared to stick it out.

12. Creative people do not fall in love with an idea.

13. Creative people recognize the environment in which they are most creative.

14. Creative people are good at reframing any situation.

15. Creative people are friends with the unexpected.

 16. Creative people are not afraid of failures.

Read the full article here.

If, as Ken Robinson says, creativity will be most sought after in work of our students’ future, then what implications does this have for education? Are the above habits of creative people skills that are teachable? One thing that is certain is that none of the habits are tied to measurable content, which is the weight of our present curriculum. Obviously, knowledge of content is necessary for any profession, but it may not be enough to succeed. If you want to be a driving force in any job, you may have to acquire some of the creative habits.

I like #14: Creative people are good at reframing any situation

Reframes are a different way of looking at things. Being able to reframe experiences and situations is a very powerful skill.

Reframing allows you to look at a situation from a different angle. It is like another camera angle in a football match. And a different view has the power to change your entire perception of the situation.

Reframing can breathe new life into dead situations. It can motivate demoralized teams. It helps you to spot opportunities that you would have otherwise missed.

If looking at things from different perspectives is an aspect of creativity, then in order to develop creativity in students, the method of teaching should allow for these different perspectives. There are teachers of English, Mathematics, Science, and other subjects, whose teaching is based on encouraging different perspectives. Do they realise how important this is? Or do they do it simply because it’s the way they think? Think on, we need more teachers like these!

 How would you design a curriculum that developed these habits of creativity?

I’ll finish this post with the quote at the conclusion of Ken Robinson’s paper:

It’s often said that education is the key to the future. It is. But a key can be turned in two directions. Turn it one way and you lock resources away: turn it another and you release them. In education as in business, it’s no longer enough to read, write and calculate. We won’t survive the future simply by doing better what we have done in the past. In the future, we must learn to be creative.

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, Education, teaching

Learning is a waste of time?

A day of conversations.

Good to record these and then reflect and analyse.

Firstly, a conversation with a Year 7 student who was ‘unable’ to do any work during English class because his laptop wasn’t working (note: he managed to remain undetected for most of the writing session before we realised, and then his visit to the computer centre was uneventful because he forgot to take the obligatory note, and the second visit left him without a computer until the end of the day). During our conversation, I told him that he should put the session down to valuable life lessons – taking the initiative to solve the problems instead of sitting aimlessly and wasting time, etc. – and he said these lessons were irrelevant because he was going to change schools the following year anyway. (My eyebrows raised involuntarily). He continued: the new school didn’t have a laptop program until the senior  years, and all his problems would be gone. What problems? You know, internet not working, things disappearing. He would get more work done. So, after a respectful pause, I asked him what he thought his future life of work would be like, wouldn’t it include functioning with technology? With all its glitches? And he would have to continue to problem-solve because there would always be problems? Yes, he agreed, but in the meantime he’d get more work done at school without the technology. It would all be in the book; easy to find and keep. (Has he heard of the technicality of losing the book?)

Hmm…

Get more work done…

Funny he should say that. Later in the day we had a meeting of the teachers involved in the Year 8 immersive project (mentioned in previous posts). I was late to the meeting, and I came in at the point where  groups of teachers were doing a post mortem on the project. The group I veered towards was engaged in passionate discourse, expressing negative views. There were too many points to remember them all, but the gist of it was that the big picture week-long, student-driven project didn’t work and was a waste of time. A waste of time because it took time away from the real work that had to be taught.  If it weren’t for the project, they would have ‘got more work done’. Work that was valuable.

Hmmm…

I ventured to say (I never learn, do I?) that all the problems and difficulties expressed were part of the teachers’ learning process, and that a collective discussion of these would result in a very different project next time – properly scaffolded, rubric based not on theory but on specific skills and capabilities demonstrated (or not) during the course of the project. The need to provide consistency throughout the different classes, the need to maintain seamless transfer between teachers, to deconstruct the questions at the beginning, to check for understanding, to get feedback from students on each day’s progress, etc. – all these observations I thought were valuable reflections, driving the discussion towards collective analysis and future improvement. But what I viewed as positive, some viewed as evidence that the project was a waste of time. The project took valuable time away from real work.

Interesting….

Not entirely surprising, though. I think you have to expect the initial digging in of heels, the panic and confusion when things are not spelled out, when teachers are just as much learners as the students, when stepping out onto unchartered territory. I can’t say that I”m not uncomfortable in new situations – of course I am. But if at least half of the teachers see the positive elements of the project, the rationale behind passion-based, student-driven, enquiry-based learning, then I hope that the scales will tip in favour of trying this out a second time. View this as a first draft, and collaborate towards an improved second draft.

Hopefully…

And please, consider the definition of ‘work’. Think about what it means to ‘get something done’. Or maybe you’d rather refocus on ‘learning process’ and navigate your learning  instead of getting it done.

Any thoughts?

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Filed under 21st century learning, debate, Education, learning, research, teachers, teaching

A balance between teaching skills and content

oldscales

Photo by takaken2008 on Flickr

What are 21st century skills and are these skills different to those currently being taught in schools?  How radically do we need to change our teaching practices?

Daniel Willingham has written an informative post in Britannica blog entitled Education for the 21st century: balancing content with skills, in which he asks and answers the important question: why the sudden concern for 21st century skills.

Willingham quotes reports and books  that point to:

changes in the skills required for most jobs. Our economy is generating fewer jobs in which workers engage in repetitive tasks throughout their day (e.g., assembly line work) and more information-rich jobs that present workers with novel problems and that require analysis and teamwork.

 Willingham quotes Elena Silva in defining these skills as having at their core the ability to

analyze and evaluate information, create new ideas and new knowledge from the information.

He also adds to creativity and critical thinking the following essential skills for the 21st century from a report from the partnership for 21st century skills :

new knowledge … [and] global awareness, media literacy, information literacy, and other new content.

Now, this is where I start sitting up and taking note. Although I’m fully on board with the need for 21st century skills, I haven’t felt comfortable substituting content for skills alone. Memorisation of facts without the skills is obviously a waste of time, and I understand that you need the skills to locate, manage and synthesize the freely available information to create knowledge, but we still need a knowledge of some content, surely, otherwise the skills are free floating and without context. 

Willingham ties up the skills/content dilemma very well for me. He says that the 21st century skills require deep understanding of subject matter:

Shallow understanding requires knowing some facts. Deep understanding requires knowing the facts AND knowing how they fit together, seeing the whole.

And skills like “analysis” and “critical thinking” are tied to content; you analyze history differently than you analyze literature … If you don’t think that most of our students are gaining very deep knowledge of core subjects—and you shouldn’t—then there is not much point in calling for more emphasis on analysis and critical thinking unless you take the content problem seriously. You can’t have one without the other.

As usual, a balance is required to make things work effectively, and this should surely be common sense. This way we avoid the too often pendulum swings that have occurred in the history of education

between an emphasis on process (analysis, critical thinking, cooperative learning) which fosters concern that students lack knowledge and generates a back-to-basics movement that emphasizes content, which fosters concern that student are merely parroting facts with no idea of how to use their knowledge, and so on.

For me, this balance is the key to identifying the problems and solutions of 21st century learning. I’m trying to understand the shift in education more deeply to avoid a superficial conversion. I think that, for me at least, more discussion will enable a deeper understanding of the learning processes and the corresponding teaching processes that are essential to prepare students for work and life in these times.

As usual, I welcome and am grateful for any comments, and look forward to generating some discussion.

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, debate, Education, learning, teachers, teaching, Web 2.0

#15 Is this Second Life?


imagine working at google

Originally uploaded by tsheko

I’ve watched the film Working for Google before and it made me blink in disbelief. Was I watching a science fiction film? Had I ended up in Second Life? Something definitely surreal about this… The fact that a workplace would provide employees things like on-site doctors, dentists, massage and yoga, day care, SHORELINE RUNNING TRAILS!, snacks, stock options, maternity and paternity leave, free lunch!! What’s the catch? Do you have to sell your soul to Google? Actually, if you look at ‘Top 10 reasons to work at Google’ some of the descriptions of the Google workplace could easily be mistaken for that of the school library. I’ve selected and slightly modified 3 points to apply to school libraries and staff:

1. With hundreds of visitors every month, the school library has become an essential part of everyday life – like a good friend – connecting people with the information they need to live great lives.

6.   Innovation is our bloodline. Even the best technology can be improved. We see endless opportunity to create even more relevant, more useful, and better products for our users. The school library is the information and communication technology leader in organizing the world’s information.

9.   Boldly go where no one has gone before. There are hundreds of challenges yet to solve. Your creative ideas matter here and are worth exploring. You’ll have the opportunity to develop innovative new products that millions of people will find useful.

What I’d really like to be able to say is that, like Googlers, library staff ‘range from former neurosurgeons, CEOs, and puzzle champions to alligator wrestlers and former-Marines’. That would be something. Alligator wrestlers in particular would come in handy when our boys come into the library at lunchtimes.

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