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Schools and the Changing Nature of Work

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" 

Who among us wasn't asked this question during our formative years? How many of us, even after many years, are still searching for the answer to this question? Futurists, technologists, and economic analysts seemingly have differing predictions about the rapidly changing nature of modern work. There is, however, a complete agreement that change is occurring at an exponential rate. What are the implications of this rapid change in our schools? How can we best meet the needs of students knowing this context of exponential modernization?



The impact that accelerating progress has on the job market and overall economy is poised to defy much of conventional wisdom.- Martin Ford

Approximately three-quarters of Americans (77%) think it’s realistic that robots and computers might one day be able to do many of the jobs currently done by humans.

Educational attainment impacts how we view workplace technology. Ninety percent of surveyed workers with college degrees think workplace technology positively affects their jobs or careers, as opposed to just the forty-five percent of surveyed workers who have attained up to a high school diploma. 

Roughly twice as many Americans express worry (72%) than enthusiasm (33%) about a future in which robots and computers are capable of doing many jobs that are currently done by humans. (Pew Research Center)

How should schools help prepare students for ever-increasing systems of automation? David Culberhouse, knowing this rapidly changing context, says, "Preparing students for this automated, augmented, artificially intelligence infused future is difficult to imagine, let alone prepare effectively for, both as individuals and organizations."

With such unpredictability, what are schools left to do? Forget answers momentarily, are educators asking the right questions? Education Week's, Benjamin Herold, asks, "What skills will today's students need? Will the jobs available now still be around in 2030? Should every kid learn to code? What about apprenticeships, career-and-technical education, and "lifelong learning?"

The following practices will help educators increase their relevance as facilitators of modern learning.

  1. Engage in discussions about the modern contexts of learning and work.
  2. Recognize many traditional pedagogical strategies may not be applicable in modern learning contexts.
  3. Continually engage as learners to gain insights, skills, and adaptations to better support students with relevant learning experiences.

Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, suggests, "It's incumbent that we prepare young people for a world of constant uncertainty." Arizona State University professor James Paul Gee, adds, "Each person needs the skills to make some kind of contribution to a changing world with a lot of problems that need solving." Emily Liebtag suggests the following strategies for getting students ready for the gig economy:

  • Engage students in meaningful work
  • Help students discover a passion and make social contributions
  • Provide students with personalized and authentic feedback

The uncertainty of the future of work has many people, including teachers, worried about their jobs and earning potential. However, futurists and economists agree that new age workers will need to be adaptable, collaborative, and willing learners to contribute in a modern workforce. 

Skilled educators need not worry, for it's practically guaranteed a modern workforce will need, as much as ever, coaches, trainers, and learning facilitators to help keep laborers and professionals viable in their respective careers. Tom Vander Ark, citing Pearson research for Getting Smart, states, "...both knowledge and skills will be required for the future economy."

References and Related Reading

Ark, Tom Vander. "The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030." Getting Smart. October 04, 2017. http://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/09/the-future-of-skills-employment-in-2030/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Getting_Smart&utm_content= The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030.

Herold, Benjamin. "The Future of Work Is Uncertain, Schools Should Worry Now." Education Week. September 27, 2017. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/09/27/the-future-of-work-is-uncertain-schools.html.

Liebtag, Emily. "Getting Students Ready for the Gig Economy." Getting Smart. July 13, 2017. http://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/07/getting-students-ready-for-the-gig-economy.

Smith, Aaron, and Monica Anderson. "Automation in Everyday Life." Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. October 04, 2017. http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/10/04/automation-in-everyday-life/.

"That World Doesn’t Exist Anymore…." DCulberhouse. September 26, 2017. https://dculberh.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/that-world-doesnt-exist-anymore/.
Kamenetz, Anya. "3 Things People Can Do In The Classroom That Robots Can't." NPR. August 02, 2016. http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/08/02/479187579/3-things-people-can-do-in-the-classroom-that-robots-cant.

photo credit: greg.simenoff Hard at work- via photopin (license)

Comments

Aaron Davis said…
Interesting as always Bob. You might also be interested in checking out this post from Doug Belshaw (https://dougbelshaw.com/blog/2016/05/19/future-of-work/). I also really think that Culberhouse's blog is a wealth of provocation.

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