Sunday, June 16, 2019

Education for the 4th Industrial Revolution

Don’t prepare kids for something. Prepare them for anything!”

I remember a world without the Internet, smart devices, mobile phones, 3D printers, and 4K televisions sets. After all, this was the world that many of us grew up in. There was an abundance of playing outside, reading, walking around the mall, going to the movies, and talking on the phone. Sure, we had our technology at the time, which now seems quite archaic compared to even the most rudimentary devices of today.  However, we were not connected even in the slightest bit when compared to the present. Rotary phones and face-to-face were the main, and really only viable, options available. Little did we know that we were in the midst of the 3rd Industrial Revolution and the dawn of the computer age was upon us. Disruptive change was upon us; we just didn’t know it back then.

Whether you like it or not, we are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution and have been so for many years.  It has and will continue to, fundamentally change the way we engage with each other, work, and go through life. It is exhilarating as it is terrifying.  Take this view from the World Economic Forum:
We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.
Tom Murray and I presented a call to action, highlighting the need to transform teaching, learning, and leadership in Learning Transformed to meet the demands and challenges inherent in the 4th Industrial Revolution.  In the updated edition of Digital Leadership, I took it a step further.  Improving upon and then building pedagogical capacity in ways that align to the competencies that our learners will need in a world that is almost impossible to predict is critical.   Rest assured, it is not as arduous an endeavor as you might think. The key to future-proofing education, and learning, for that matter, is to empower students to think and construct new knowledge while simultaneously having them apply what they have learned in relevant ways. More specifically, education has to prepare kids to be competent in the following areas:
  • Critical thinking and real-world problem solving
  • Relationship building (inter and intra-personal)
  • Digital awareness and use
  • Career and job-specific requirements
So where to begin?  For starters, it is vital to get everyone on the same page. The Rigor Relevance Framework provides the common vision, language, and expectations to help learners develop the competencies to succeed in the 4th Industrial Revolution. For more detailed information, you can view a series of posts on the framework HERE.

Now more than ever, the importance of education cannot be overstated. However, things do need to change at scale.  The status quo cannot be tolerated.  If schools continue down the same path as they have for decades, two things will happen. In one possible scenario, our students could begin to abandon them as they will find more relevant and applicable programs and information online.  The more likely outcome though is that they will not be adequately prepared for the new world of work.  In either case, both of these should be viewed as unacceptable.  Challenging the mantra of TTWWADI (that’s the way we’ve always done it) requires both a bold and fearless educator.  The good news is that we have many of these people in our schools. 

One thing I have learned from hundreds of classroom coaching visits each year is that innovative practices are present. I have been so inspired by teachers and administrators who have begun to embrace different and better pedagogical techniques aligned to the competencies listed above while also improving outcomes in the process.  The challenge is moving practices that prepare kids to succeed in the 4th Industrial Revolution from obscurity to more mainstream.  We must not be satisfied with isolated pockets of excellence. Even though they represent a great starting point and should be celebrated, it is essential to remember that every learner deserves excellence. 

Will the learners in your school be ready?

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