This paradox reminds me that I took an HTML programming course in Cupertino about 15 years ago. We sat through a week long course, learning all of the codes to design web pages. It made one's eyes dull and head hurt, but, I was able to build first generation websites for small businesses- an early web designer. Fast forward 15 years, the languages have evolved to HTML 5, and what was C has developed onto C++ or CSS, Java has come (and largely gone as I understand it) and Flash, well, it's future is uncertain with portable apple devices unable to read it. That is to say, a lot has changed. HTML coding is readily accessible on the internet. So, would I starting now take a class in HTML 1.0 today? Of course not, that knowledge wouldn't serve me in any practical way. So, why aren't we upgrading our education system with the same insights to keep up with the times from the bottom up?
Google is rapidly paving the way to a future in which everyone will have access to the same knowledge and information. Google is the ultimate leveler of the playing field. Success and excellence will be redefined. The meritocracy will be global. Excellence will be marked by those with the skills to navigate information effectively. Success will come to those who have the skills to use the information persuasively. Opportunities will unfold for those with the skills to use information innovatively. Capacity to communicate and collaborate across geography, language, culture, discipline will be essential. Social intelligences will exceed knowledge intelligences in value. The skill of survival will be the ability to access information 'just in time,' manage it effectively, present it persuasively and to work effectively in a collaborative setting.
How does the current education system prepare our young people for this reality?
I was thrilled to see a NY Times article on video games in the classroom for middle school children. Teaching young people skills for the future includes being able to self-assess, set goals, meet goals, adapt... To thrive in an environment that is not scripted, but rather where you create the opportunities for yourself.
A few years ago I posted an idea for the UK's first Social Innovation Camp weekend. The Be Well, Work Well Credentialing Tool was to create a personal development tool using a 360 framework for trainings in soft skills (ethics, communication, negotiation, mediation, leadership). I added it onto another idea targeted for at-risk young people. We both wanted to build better tools for capturing and improving valuable skills - communication, collaboration, initiative, tenacity- the ones that matter most in life and workplace success. We wanted to create a system that would allow people to set goals, work at them, evaluate their progress, get feedback, adapt and meet their goals. (see Health Month a great app that is doing this for healthy living) While performance portfolios are a staple in the work place (Salesforce a dominant player), these tools to support the learning, developing and honing of these vital skills over time have not been adopted into the pipeline. Imagine a student graduating from college with a portfolio that reflects their soft skills/social intelligence based upon course-work and club activity since high school. An employer would be able to assess a person's adaptability and capacity to grow. Until tools to meaningfully evaluate soft skills/social intelligences exist, they will be poorly valued. As access to knowledge gap flattens, these social intelligence skills will rise in value. Developing better systems to build, hone, and cultivate excellence in them is essential.
How would you design education to allow today's children to thrive tomorrow?