Learning Experiences that Build Future-Ready Skills

By Rachelle Dene Poth


It is important for us as educators to continue to ask ourselves two questions: ​"How can we best prepare our students for the future?” ​and "How can we best prepare ourselves?" We have been looking toward the future, preparing for 2030. Here we are in 2020 already, another year closer to 2030, ​and we must be intentional about planning activities for our students that will prepare them for whatever the future holds. But how do we know where to begin?

​I was recently asked by a colleague what I thought has changed the most in the past 10 years in education​. In my experience, the biggest change has been technology. We have so many options available to us as educators and for our students that can completely transform how, when and where learning happens. In some cases, the technology may have made things better and in others, perhaps not. But the main idea is that we have so many amazing options to choose from to empower our students with the right experiences that will prepare them. We can start by exploring digital tools and non-traditional teaching practices that will enable us to create different types of assessment​s​, ​extend the learning spaces of our classrooms, and transition our role as content providers to become facilitators of learning, that is more often student-driven.  


​With access to ​so many different types of technologies​, ​​our students now experience more powerful learning opportunities​ when w​e leverage the tools ​purposefully. We can engage them in more authentic and meaningful learning ​experiences which ​promote ​the ​development of skills that not only do they need in the future, they also need them now.  


​The Future of Jobs Report of 2018, shared by ​The World Economic Forum provided a list of the growing skills for 2022. ​Some of those in the top ten were: active learning strategies, creativity, critical thinking and complex problem solving, innovation, leadership, and emotional intelligence. Looking into our classrooms, what would be the learning experiences that we can provide for our students that would enable them to build these skills? 


Here are four ideas to try that can help build future-ready skills:


  1. ​STEM and Makerspaces: These are becoming more common in schools around the world and not specific to simply one course in STEM but rather an interdisciplinary curriculum. With access to these learning spaces and styles, students will have more active, hands-on learning experiences. With STEM programs, students build social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and in the process can work through productive struggle, experience and grow from failure, engage in the practice of reflection,  and build collaborative skills as they work as part of a team. 


  1. ​Project-based Learning (PBL): ​PBL offers students the power of choice and can address all of these skills and more that will prepare them for the future. With PBL,  students ​have choices ​and experience more independent and active learning. ​PBL offers a great opportunity for students to look at global issues and work toward finding problems to solve in their community. ​


​3. Genius Hour or 20% time: ​Students have the space to engage in inquiry-based and more student-driven learning. In classrooms that use these methods, students focus on areas of passion, curiosity, and can engage in deeper learning that is more closely connected to their specific needs and interests. Setting aside time each day or once each week, can promote the development of many of the skills students need in the future, including communication, problem-solving, building confidence, and creativity.  


​4.  Computational Thinking and Coding: Looking toward the future, these are skills that will be needed in the world of work and providing students with time to build skills now will be of great benefit. Beyond the technical skills involved in coding, computational thinking helps students to build problem-solving skills, to better understand how and why things work, and to become creators of their own projects and programs. Working as teams can help students to build their collaborative skills and push through challenges along the way with a supportive network, enabling students to build confidence as they work. 


​There are many ways to engage our students in unique types of learning experiences and different learning spaces. We need to push beyond what may have been our traditional way of covering the content and provide more student-driven opportunities that not only help our students to build vital skills for the future and embrace taking some risks in the process, but that also push us to engage in these learning experiences with them too. To prepare our students, we must be ready to dive in with them and explore the many opportunities through technology and through some risk-taking with new ideas in our classrooms. When we do this, even if we come across challenges and things don't go as well as planned along the way, we will help students learn to adapt and build resilience that will benefit them in the future.


About the Author: 

Rachelle Dene is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She serves as the President of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. Author of ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” and “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” Rachelle Dene’s upcoming book with ISTE “Chart A New Course will be available in March. Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @rdene915.


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