Teacher’s day – 5th September, 2016
Dear fellow educators,
Jem and Scout want to build a snowman after it snows for the first time in their lives, but there isn’t enough snow to do it. Jem has the idea to build the base out of mud and cover the outside with snow. Their father, Atticus, is tickled by their ingenuity and tells Jem, “From now on I’ll never worry about what’ll become of you, son, you’ll always have an idea… I can’t tell what you’re going to be – an engineer, a lawyer, or a portrait painter.”
This paragraph from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a mocking bird” now resonates with each of us – the educators of today… It reiterates of the enormously onerous task that is upon us in preparing our students for the next century. From engineers, doctors, lawyers – we added the profession of software engineers over the last few decades. What about the next few decades? For students of 2020 school leaving batch? The workforce of 2030? The rise of entirely new careers such as data scientists, social media strategists, and UX designers (user experience – demolishing the hubris of the architects of user interface) or, some other? I have in my life of 50 years seen the professions of telephone operators, travel agents, bank tellers, video parlor operators, printing press managers going obsolete. DIY (Do IT Yourself) kits, cheap and accessible digital printing on any surface, digital 3D printers for anything from spare parts to making prototypes are available to amateurs and professionals alike. Control with specific skill related dependencies has shifted to variable, applicable, ingenious and idea based creativity.
The World Economic Forum recommends that the educational system be completely redesigned to emphasize skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, collaboration and digital literacy. It’s no longer about preparing kids for a particular career, but it’s about teaching a mindset, a behavior, and a skill of lifelong learning. According to the US Department of Labor, 65% of today’s students will have careers that don’t exist yet.
I initially started writing this by trying to imagine what careers of the year 2030 might look like. I would be an octogenarian, as would be most of the parents of my generation of educators whose age today range from 40 to 50 years. Our parents are wading through satellite TV, skype calls, using video face time across geographies and time zones, sharing photos on “what’s app” of their travels and grand children… I started to wonder what my students would be into when I would survive to that age, three decades from now. We will be there in all likelihood given the gene therapies, organ transplants and growing spare organs of one’s own from stem cells – the pace with which medical research and technology for health and wellbeing is moving. I began with applying existing careers to newly created technologies (Animatronic Veterinarian?) and then extrapolated other careers based what new discoveries can afford us (Celestial Fashion Designer?). I realized I could just as easily play this for a mad libs game – not tried yet but aspiring to do that soon…( http://www.madlibs.com/), that combined different nouns and adverbs in infinite different ways, and come up with a list that is just as likely to happen as any well thought out and researched list. How about a Drone Rancher, a Holoportation operator, a Visualization consultant, a Virtual Tapestry designer for Evacuated Tube Transportation Technologies (http://www.et3.com/), a Gamer DE addiction Therapist, an Avatar relationship manager… go ahead, make up a few with your students in your next class!
As educators, we can now comfortably stop fretting about managing classrooms (http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/swedens-classroom-free-school-the-future-of-education.html) or for that matter swing from one prescribed curriculum to the other and lesson plans for creating the next generation of engineers or teaching kids to be coders; what we want to do is help ignite kids’ passions, unleash their inner inventor, build up their own creative confidence so that they can be the ones to invent the world they want to live in. Schools as makers space? Educators as collaborators? The STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) is gathering a different velocity with STEAM (STEM + Arts)…
What we can do is work together to help children tap into their ingenuity and build their snowmen. From then on we’ll never worry about what’ll become of the next generation; they’ll always have an idea.
A fourth generation educator, an aspiring MadLib gamer and plans to live to see the future careers today’s students would be creating for themselves.