5 Ideas for Preparing Students for the Future

Over the past year, there has been an increase in the discussion of how to prepare students for the future of work and the future of learning. With so many changes happening when it comes to education and technology, as educators we must focus on more than the content we teach and instead do more to provide students with learning experiences to build future-ready skills. But what are the skills that students will need in the future and how can we best prepare them? Each day brings with it news alerts related to emerging tec

hnologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, and how these tools are being used now and potentially will be used in the future. In addition to technology-related skills, there is also a greater focus on helping students to develop social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and finding the best ways that we can do this in all of our classrooms.

With so many changes happening each day and with uncertainty about what the future will bring in years beyond 2030, educators need to do more than ever before. Beyond teaching the content and developing plans based on our students, we have to consider how these emerging trends and other critical skills might impact our students today and in the future. We are preparing them with the right skills to be successful but we also will make an impact on those with whom they will connect in the future. The experiences we create for our students and the decisions we make will go far beyond our classrooms and our schools. Our impact on them will also impact their future colleagues. Therefore we must be intentional as we consider how we can prepare students for their next steps and long-term.

What skills do our students need?

Looking into some recent statistics, I came across a McKinsey report which showed that by the year 2030, nearly 40% of the jobs that currently exist will be obsolete. Because we do not know exactly which jobs will exist, we must rely on trends that emerge from research and our own explorations and then provide the right opportunities for students to build their skills in a variety of ways. Based on research and trends, some of the most common skills needed and which have not changed much over the past 30 years are collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. To provide opportunities for the development of these skills and promote creativity, students would benefit from learning experiences related to STEM topics, project-based learning (PBL), and opportunities to explore in their community through experiences like place-based learning.

5 Learning experiences that build future-ready skills:

  1. Project-based learning (PBL) - can be a great way to give students more ownership in learning. Through PBL, students can explore areas of personal interest or curiosity, engage in authentic real-world learning experiences and develop many of the necessary skills for future work. Through these experiences, students embrace a growth mindset and focus more on the process of learning and developing their skills over time.
  2. Global education - Students need to understand what is happening in the world and one way to connect them with global issues is through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Teach SDGs). Students can explore challenges around the world and focus on finding solutions or addressing these issues on a local scale, and broaden their global understanding. Through these experiences we can promote problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, and empathy, all critical skills, and characteristics for students to develop.
  3. Career Technical Education (CTE) can benefit students by offering them an opportunity to explore career options and build academic and technical skills while in high school. With these opportunities, students get to experience firsthand what it is like to work in certain industries and develop skills that will be transferable to different types of work in their future.
  4. Entrepreneurial skills and teamwork: Students will need to develop a lot of different skills and be flexible when it comes to the type of employment they seek. In my school, students can take a course about Entrepreneurship and engage in projects such  as event planning, product design, business management, shark tank type activities and more. Something that gives students the opportunity to build many of these skills is having students create a business. Students will have to think creatively, communicate ideas, problem-solve, collaborate to come up with new ideas. By making changes in the guidelines, we can push students to keep thinking of the next step or iteration, to view learning as an ongoing process. 
  5. STEM curriculum or STEM-related activities added into the classroom helps students to develop many of the skills that will benefit them in the future. Through DefinedSTEM, educators have access to many resources to topics ranging from PBL to career exploration, and STEM-related activities. When we create opportunities for students to explore STEM, especially at an early age, it promotes curiosity, gives students the chance to create and develop a better understanding of how STEM is involved in daily life. 

We know that technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, so the best we can do is focus on helping students to develop human skills such as creativity, initiative, resilience, and flexibility in learning. The more that we can connect students with innovative real-world opportunities within their school, community and globally, we will empower them to develop the skills they need to be successful in the future.

We must start by ensuring that all students have an equal opportunity to explore and discover their passions. By supporting our students as they set their own learning goals, engage in more self-driven learning experiences and to self-assess, we will provide them with a solid foundation and diverse skill set so they will be successful in the future, far beyond 2030.

About the Author:

Rachelle Dene is Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle Dene 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," and "The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead," Rachelle Dene’s other titles include "Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU" and "Chart A New Course. Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @rdene915.


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