Posted on March 14, 2012 at 2:50 AM
Posted by Sol
There are, perhaps, two known truths in education: The first is that the future is unknown, and the second is that we must prepare pupils for that future. It's a cliché for a reason.
So what should we be teaching pupils to make sure that they are prepared as best they can? I think it has to be a combination of skills and ideas that have always been taught, as well as skills and ideas that have only just recently surfaced.
- Typing. Whether you use a physical keyboard, or a virtual one, until technology like Siri and Kinect are mainstream and widely embedded (for example, you can write an essay or conduct a search online, or set up your TiVo using your voice or arms with 99.9999% accuracy - basically, it has to be easier, faster and more accurate than using a keyboard), typing will continue to be needed. Just like handwriting is still a valuable skill, typing will continue to be a valued asset.
- Office. I am a big fan of open-source, but Microsoft's dominance in the world is staggering, and MS Office programs (and Windows in general) are still the benchmark in the workplace. However, students most certainly should be introduced to as many viable alternatives to Office and Windows as possible. Ultimately, students should be able to pick and use any word processor, spreadsheet or presentation software, whether it is online or on another operating system. There is no benefit in just learning to use one companies software. Can you imagine a world where you were limited to driving just one company's car, or watch just one brand of TV, or eat one supermarket's brand of food?
- Email. Some have written email will be replaced by more social ways of communicating - The death of email by 2018. The suggestion is that email is great for two people to discuss something, but anything more than that, and it becomes a confusing mess of distracting words. Email is also a very inefficient way of sharing documents (a 10MB presentation sent to 30 people will take up a total of 310MB of space across every one's inbox). However true this may be, email is still very familiar and accessible to many people. And, to be fair, all online communication, in whatever form, is a skill worth having for the foreseeable future.
- Online search. Finding your answers independently, accurately, and efficiently is already an established skill that is easily transferable (and desired) for future use. And with voice search, contextual search, social search, and so on, any students who can find infomation in the most effective way will benefit greatly.
- Social Media. Knowing how to make connections, build and maintain online relationships with the aim to grow, consolidate, discuss, and learn is just starting to mature. Whether you call them Personal Learning Networks or something else, knowing how to take advantage of social media in any form can only be a benefit to them. Of course, students would also do well in being aware of the need to manage their on line identity, too. First impressions will still be important!
- Mobile technology. For many of us (and our students), our mobile device is the hub of our digital world. Most of our communications come from there - and for some, it may be our only communications device. Knowing how to make the most of it all, knowing what it is good for (and what it is not good for), when to or not to use it, and knowing how to live without it are all necessary skills.
- Functional skills. In the last century, we were taught how to calculate the area of a wall that needed to be painted. This century, we need to teach students how to calculate how much disk space an image from a 12mp camera requires and how to keep a computer running as fast as possible. We need to use as much jargon in schools as possible to make it as familiar as possible. Not only this, but we need to apply it in as many practical and real-life situations as often as we can. This will breed familiarity, and remove any "fear" that anyone may have about the technology.
- Platform agnostic. It is no longer enough to know about OSX and Windows. Students must become experts with emerging platforms, especially cloud (online) based ones. Technology is advancing at such a pace, it is worth knowing as many different ones as one can. Knowing how to use different platforms is like knowing different languages.
- Protection. This covers knowing about virus and malware, as well as identity and copyright. Being able to protect yourself online and virtually means that you can avoid getting yourself into trouble, as well as knowing how to get yourself out of it, while also enjoying everything that being connected has to offer.
Of course, this list is open for discussion. Not all of it may be as essential as I make out, and there may be others that should be included. The aim is to identify the skills needed to be taught today that will benefit the future.