At a workshop I conducted just last week, we got into a small discussion about 21st century skills and workforce preparedness. One person echoed a statement I’ve heard many times before:

We are preparing students for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

We do, in fact live in a global society that is ever changing. Yet how we find ourselves teaching is all too often just as Pam Harland says, “Teachers now simply type their lecture notes into PowerPoint instead of writing in chalk.” And by we, I do mean me.

It is hard to take a good look in the mirror and see what it is that I am doing as a teacher and realize what I should be doing as well. Yes, from time to time I will share a BrainPop with my students as I join the class next door or encourage my students to practice their math facts for a period of time in the computer clubhouse, but the reality is that in my classroom, there is one piece of technology – my computer that I hoard to myself throughout the day for my own needs.

Grant it – I teach fourth grade, so I wonder, “Do my students really need to be utilizing technology in order to learn the 3 Rs that are so basic and important to their success?” I answer myself in many ways:

  • No, they just need to learn those skills and the traditional way is best! At least in elementary school.
  • Yes, there have to be resources out there that can assist in their learning and practicing of these skills.
  • Yes, and it is my responsibility to teach students media literacy too!
  • Yes, and I can also allow for them to use the technology they already do to respond to and discuss their learning.

Usually the yeses outnumber the nos. But then I think of the inevitable – our reality: there are constraints and pressures and test scores and AYP. But, what it boils down to is, regardless of what grade you teach, students are using, will continue to use and will be expected to use technology throughout their lives.

This is what leads to workforce preparedness. Is seems middle school and high school grades feel more pressure in this realm, since they are closer to the students who are actually out in the workforce. But we need to remember, I need to remember, that a students’ education is not just for a period of time, but throughout their lives and I play a large role in that. Even workforce preparedness, even in fourth grade! We all link to each other and all play a part in the gradual process of coaching students to become skilled workers for the future.

Technology is not the only skill we should be discussing, either. There are other skills too. We will explore some of those in the next blog. For now, ponder the idea of the future for which we are preparing our children.

Next Blog (due out on Saturday, February 13, 2010) – Skills Our Children Need

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Virtual Professional Learning Networks
Skills Our Students Need