I had the wonderful opportunity to attend ISTE18 in Chicago where forward-thinking educators and vendors come together to learn, network, dream, and reflect. The experience was an occasion to be surrounded by the innovative, those who are iterating on current practices and tools and those who are creating the completely new. The enhancements to personalized and interactive learning through virtual and augmented reality are noteworthy. The tools to develop early learning skills such as sequencing through basic coding applications for K-2 students are inspiring. The shift that has already happened in private industry and the systemic disconnect with pedagogical practices was astonishing.
There continues to be a draw to the “shiny.” We like app smashing. We like tools that save time. Yet, we struggle to connect these to creating knowledge among adult and child learners that shift us from consumers to creators of content that is relevant to building contemporary skills, fluency, and meaningful learning applications that align with what our students need to be successful in the workforce. There is a continuing struggle to simultaneously develop these skill sets as well as those necessary to perform well on the standardized tests our society values as a measure of a student and school’s success.
With that in mind, presentations by Carl Hooker and Brianna Hodges and Eric Curts were noteworthy for their focus on enhancing pedagogical practices, empowering struggling learners, and inviting educators into planning processes to both enhance and empower the student learning experience.
We have pockets of excellence with educators like Hodges, Hooker, and Curts happening in schools and different classrooms happening in schools and districts across the country. However, we struggle to create the conditions in which these practices become systemically ingrained across all of learning including the professional learning of educators. As the world continues to become increasingly automated, the necessity of preparing students with the foundation that prepares them for an automated world for behind the scenes careers focused on design, experience, personalization, and technical knowledge continues to grow as a moral imperative to society.
Heading to San Francisco via O’Hare, a series of events struck me that drove home the urgency there is to prepare our students for jobs in a largely automated world.
I checked in to my flight on the United App the evening before from an Uber ordered through the app while heading to Hamilton. I paid for my luggage on the same app in another Uber on my way to the airport the next morning. I weighed and printed out the sticker for my luggage at an automated kiosk, scanned my boarding pass from the app as I went through security and boarded the plane. Along the way, there were a lot of travelers, but my experience was largely automated and self-driven as well as very different from school environments.
Even refilling a water bottle and flushing the toilet was automated.
I came home to find that I had received a paper check in the mail. I opened the Chase Bank app on my phone and within moments, the check was deposited. I noticed we were low on some non-perishable items in the cupboards, opened the Amazon app and reordered the items with a few taps at a lower cost than our local stores and home delivery.
The implications of these experiences for student learning demonstrate the urgency to hire personnel who are adaptable, who stay connected to the contemporary and connect their own learning to private industry as well as education. It is imperative that all schools, regardless of size or location are provided with the expertise and funding levels that allow students and communities to experience the shift to modernization before it surprises them or they aren’t prepared to navigate and compete in a world with tools that require creativity and critical thinking skills to fully access what is becoming ubiquitous in some communities while remaining novel or unknown in others.
Not only will our students need the creativity and critical thinking skills to access the automated world, but they will need the critical thinking skills to design, communicate, and work collaboratively in a world that will require this of them to be successful, contributing members to society.
Our challenge as leaders grows to invite the politicians who make crucial decisions regarding funding and assessment of education success criteria into a shared understanding of what is needed to prepare this and the next generation of student to be successful in careers that will take them into the 22nd Century.