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One of the key responsibilities of education and educators is to prepare today’s learners for their future. However, accomplishing this task would be much easier if we were better able to predict what the future will be like and what it will require from today’s learners.

We sense that society is changing. There is no question that the work place is changing. Unfortunately, much of the change is not linear. The future is not likely to be on a straight-line path from today. Much of what is familiar may still be around in some form, but innovation often creates new paths, offers new options, and presents new tools to navigate the journey.

Yet, schools have been designed to preserve what has been judged to be important in the past and to incrementally improve over time. Few mechanisms exist for schools to make immediate and dramatic course changes, even when the need is obvious. One of the most important and significant challenges facing educators, educational leaders, researchers, think tanks, families, and our society at large is to reimagine education and learning as a series of life-long tasks and challenges, not as functions of a single or even multiple institutions.

On one hand, the development of technology, such as artificial intelligence, is opening new ways to engage in learning regardless of age or location. On the other hand, it is technology and artificial intelligence that is making it more difficult to predict the future and the specific skills people will need.

Some argue that technology is eliminating jobs, but it is also creating new jobs and expanding opportunities. While this is an encouraging observation, it fails to identify what skills and capacities will be needed to avoid being pushed aside and which skills will position those who have them to capitalize on any new opportunities created.

Fortunately, a new report from Nesta, a British innovation foundation, and futurists at the Oxford Martin School have studied the challenge in depth and offer some useful predictions regarding the skills likely to be most useful and valued in 2030.

The five skills the study authors see as most desirable are:
• Judgment and decision-making: This skill enables one to consider the relative costs and benefits of alternate actions and reach a decision regarding the most appropriate action.
• Fluency of ideas: This skill focuses on the ability to identify multiple ideas relative to a topic or situation. While identifying the highest quality ideas will be important, this skill focuses on the ability to generate ideas, even if they are not all of high quality.
• Active learning: This skill includes the ability and inclination to learn in a variety of settings and to utilize a variety of tools and methods that are appropriate in the setting and to the learning challenge.
• Learning strategies: Closely related to active learning, this skill speaks to an understanding of the implications and significance of new information for current use and future problem solving and decision-making.
• Originality: In an innovation economy, the ability to generate new, clever, and useful ideas and approaches appropriate to a variety of topics and in a variety of settings will be a key differentiator for workers.

One inescapable implication of this study is that we need to move beyond the confines of subject-specific learning and narrow job skills, if we hope to prepare today’s learners for success in the workplaces they will occupy.

Bakhshi, H., Downing, J. M., Osborne, M. A., Schenider, P. (2017, September 27). The future of skills: Employment in 2030. Retrieved from https://futureskills.pearson.com/research/assets/pdfs/technical-report.pdf

Thought for the Week

Finding ways to engage students, increase learning efficiency, and extending recall of what students learn can be a constant quest. Fortunately, designing activities and employing strategies that release the flow of dopamine in our students’ brains can help us to meet this challenge, especially now.

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