Preparing 21st Century Workers

What am I doing to help prepare my students for a future career? How am I creating 21st century learners? Will my students have a positive impact and play a key role in their future workplace? What can I be doing better in my classroom to answer all these questions? These are just some of the many questions I have has this week.

Photo Credit: Max Braun via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Max Braun via Compfight cc

I was really impacted by the Future Work Skills 2020 document. As I was reading I had a lot of different feelings. At some points I felt worried or uneasy because of the thought of things such as jobs becoming more automated. I completely understand that technology is going to have a much bigger role in our careers as we move forward, but it is somewhat unsettling to think that computers will be replacing jobs that people currently do. How will this impact our economy and the people who are currently in the workforce? There are a lot of people in the world and if technology continues to replace people, how will those who may be uneducated or untrained be able to find other jobs. I felt a little more at ease to read that the idea is that computers will be used to analyze data to better serve us and help us. It will allow us to determine what our competitive advantage is as humans. Technology will also help free up time for us to do the things we enjoy by perhaps allowing us to be more efficient at our jobs. Maybe this will create a shorter work day allowing us to have more time to ourselves and less time at work.

As helpful as computers are at analyzing data they cannot read emotions or express feelings in the same way humans do. They cannot determine the context of conversations or words. Even as we use technology more and more in the workforce we must make sure that we develop employees that have social intelligence. Students need to be able to read others emotions and be able to communicate with others. This is one of the many skills that will be important for future workers.

A lot of the other skills that future workers need focus on thinking critically, problem solving, understanding media content and accessing different media. I think that it is extremely important for students to develop skills that allow them to think critically and problem solve. Too often in Math class I hear students say “just tell me how to do it” or “what is the formula?”. A lot of students think that there is only one way to solve a problem and that each problem should be able to be solved that way. There is usually more than one way to go about a problem and in order for students to be comfortable with problem solving they have to be given the opportunity to think for themselves rather than just be told how to do something. I couldn’t agree with Ashley more when she says that before students can think critically about something they must truly understand the concept. I find that in my classroom students don’t often truly understand the material. They simply want to be told what to memorize. I always tell them I don’t want them to memorize anything, I want them to UNDERSTAND it. I find it hard for students to truly understand some math concepts because there is a constant pressure to get through the curriculum and make sure they learn everything. But if I rush through everything are they really learning anything??

I really enjoyed reading Cindy’s blog this week and I have a lot of the same feelings about technology as she did. I am starting to shift towards really wanting to bring technology into my class on a daily basis. Teaching high school where most students have handheld devices or laptops should make this an easy task for me but the school I am at has a very strict policy about using phones in the classroom. I am sure if I talked to my admin staff I would be able to use technology on a daily basis if it was for educational purposes (which it would be). I want to use technology more but I don’t want to simply use technology just for the sake of using it. I really want it to enhance the learning experience for my students. I want to provide them with learning experiences that will develop skills for the future work force. I have good intentions for when I return from maternity leave. The problem is I don’t return to work until September 2016 which right now seems like a lifetime away haha! I am hoping to really look at my courses and determine how I can make the most use of technology in the classroom to benefit students.

Looking at NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment there were a lot of questions that really made me critique my own teaching. There are a lot of things that I am not doing in my classroom that I think I could be doing. I know that I worry about using technology because it isn’t always reliable. That is one of the biggest deterrents for me. The technology and network at my school are not very reliable so I hesitate to use technology because I don’t want to ‘waste’ a lesson on technology that won’t cooperate making me feel more pressure to get through all the information in the curriculum. Maybe I should be less focused on the curriculum and more focused on the skills that will help them become good future workers? I feel like we have a lot of different pressures as teachers and we need to decide what is best for our students. The problem is that what we feel is best for our students might not be what their parents or admin or other teachers think is best. How do we get everyone on the same page and how do we decide what is the most important? Is it possible to address all of these new skills future workers should have at the same time as continue to develop the old skills? I can’t help but think of all of these things and wonder what my classroom will look like when I go back to work. It’s all really exciting but also scary to think about.


2 thoughts on “Preparing 21st Century Workers

  1. Pingback: What does it mean to be literate? | Kristina Boutilier's Blog

  2. I also feel more excited about using technology in the classroom, but I would agree with your point that it needs to be meaningful inclusion. Using technology just for the sake of using technology teaches students nothing. We ask students to research information, yet it is really the vital skill of critically analyzing the information, evaluating the source, learning to skim and summarize that we want students to know. These are the areas to focus our teaching on. I am also questioning why I would suggest that students make a PowerPoint for a presentation rather that utilizing some of the more interactive and innovative tools out there! This is what will be needed in the future workplace rather than a static presentation.


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