As educators, we have an awesome responsibility. We are charged with preparing our students for the future. No matter what they may end up doing in the future – whether they are business people, authors, political leaders, or engaged in a trade, we have the responsibility to make sure they have the skills they need to successfully engage in the world around them and to be meaningful global citizens. This is a responsibility I often find myself thinking about as I strive to make sure we are doing everything we can to best meet our student’s needs.
I recently found myself reflecting on this topic again. I was at a conference and the presenter raised the question, ‘What are the ‘must haves’ our students need to make sure they are prepared for the 21st century?” This is a difficult question. I often think about the data telling us that most of our children will end up in jobs that are unheard of today. If that is true, how do we make sure we are preparing students for these “unknowns?”
One of my favorite educational leaders is a professor at the University of Toronto named Michael Fullan. I think highly of him because I find his work to be very practical and realistic for promoting effective education. In one of his recent works, he stated, “All of the work we are doing in schools is just tinkering unless we clarify the role of collaboration and inquiry.” I found this quote to be interesting in that it caused me to begin thinking about the role of certain skills that may be needed in the future and the importance of teaching these skills as much as we teach certain content.
If that is the case, then what are some of those skills we need to make sure we are teaching and promoting? In my mind, it would seem there needs to be a focus on thinking. That might seem to be apparent, but there really is skill that goes into thinking, to pushing ourselves to see beyond the obvious, to question, and to draw conclusions. This is important stuff! Similarly, reasoning and problem solving should be high on our list. Whatever jobs our students have in the future, there is no doubt innovators who are able to solve problems will be leading the way. However, I believe we need to push further and promote the ideal of moral reasoning, encouraging our students to see themselves as fitting into the larger world, taking responsibility for what goes on there, and seeking solutions. Collaboration seems to be key. The world of working in isolation seems to be coming to a close. Students who are prepared for the future will be those who know how to collaborate and build on each other’s ideas. Finally, I think it is very evident technology is key. It seems to be an absolute that our students must be proficient in the use technology as a tool for communication and innovation.
Some of the skills that ISY encourages and embeds in learning include: Thinking, reasoning and problem solving, collaboration, and proficiency in technology. As I think about the future, and how we can best prepare our students for success, I hope our work will be more than just the tinkering described by Fullan.