Wednesday, January 4, 2012

10 Important Skills Students need for the Future

The future. What do our students really need to know and be able to do to succeed in future education and careers?

Content is a part of what they need to know. Standardized tests test content knowledge and some skills. There are huge debates raging over standardized testing, curriculum, and the like. But what it is that students really need to know for the future. Hint: it isn't all content.

Content is important to a point. Having certain knowledge of facts and information helps us put things in context as we work and live. Content helps us evaluate other information we are working with. However, in today's world of the web and smart phones, facts and content are less important. Students, and the workforce, need to know how to think critically, find and evaluate information, work in teams, communicate effectively, solve problems and apply knowledge and skills to new things and be able to learn on their own. These are some of the "21st Century Skills" that have been talked about for years. I agree that these are the most important skills and I feel that Project Based Learning is one of the best ways to teach these skills.

I learned many of these skills in college because even 20 years ago, my school, WPI, understood these ideas. The WPI Plan is an excellent model of project based learning, core competencies, and needed skills. This base has allowed me to be successful as an engineer, and successfully transition to being an educator. It has also helped me to learn on my own.

Research by the Institute for the Future released in a report entitled “Future Work Skills 2020″ shows that preparing for a specific career area based on content is difficult and, instead, people should be developing certain broad skills. These same skills are important for our students to learn. The report explains each of the skills in detail, and also goes into the implications for education and policies.

Here are the skills:

Sense-making. The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed

Social intelligence. The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions

Novel and adaptive thinking. Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based

Cross-cultural competency. The ability to operate in different cultural settings

Computational thinking. The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning

New-media literacy. The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication

Transdisciplinarity. Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines

Design mind-set
. Ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes

Cognitive load management. The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques

Virtual collaboration. The ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team


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