Eighty-five percent of the jobs our current students will have in 2030 don’t exist yet, according to a report from Institute for the Future. How are we, as teachers, supposed to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet?
I address this question as a K–5 media specialist by focusing on the four C’s: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. A robot may be able to check your items out at the grocery store, but it can’t think critically for you. Here are four skills that are preparing my students not just for middle school, but for their future careers.
Typing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of skills for the jobs of the future, but it is fundamental. Whether they graduate with degrees in engineering, business, computer programming or education, students will spend hours using a keyboard for both professional and personal reasons.
The sooner students memorize a keyboard, the more useful this skill will be as they go through school. Coding and programming require good typing skills. It's hard for students to pick up that next digital literacy skill if they aren’t proficient with a keyboard. For instance, the teachers and coaches of our all-girls Upper School robotics team say that not being able to type is a big challenge in learning to code.
Our students use technology to showcase their learning, and students as early as fourth and fifth grade type their class notes. Recently, I heard a student say they weren’t fast enough to type out their notes. I want to make sure that’s not true for my students going forward.
Students can choose to type or write by hand. I want to make sure that typing is a comfortable option for whatever project they’re working on, be it a website, designing a game, a blog post, a podcast or a script for a movie.
I use TypeTastic with my students. My kindergartners love it, and I love it for them because even though their hands are too small to learn fingering, they can still learn where the keys are on the keyboard. Our kindergartners begin by using tablets, and by the time their hands are big enough to use a real keyboard, the location of keys should come naturally to them. They also think it’s fun because it’s game-based. They’re always asking me if they can play.
Our school’s motto is "Non Scholae, Sed Vitae: Not for School, but for Life." Collaboration is a skill that will be used for life. As a project-based school, collaboration is essential. To facilitate collaboration, we use Google Classroom and the full G Suite for Education, along with the Smart Notebook collaborative platform. All our curriculum materials are focused on students working together.
Like collaboration, problem-solving is a skill that all people need not just to be successful in their careers, but to be successful in life. In a project-based school, problem-solving can happen anywhere, but we do have specific rooms and resources set aside for facilitating problem-solving. We have a STEM center with a wood shop, three 3D printers, a LEGO room and a maker cart that help any classroom become a temporary makerspace. Our maker cart is an art cart stocked by donations of crafting supplies, paper, cardboard, wood, bubble wrap and scissors, among other supplies. This ensures that problem-solving can happen in any classroom, at any grade.
Like many schools, we are increasing STEM education. We have several tools specifically aimed at helping students learn to code. In addition to using Code Studio through Code.org, our after-school First LEGO League uses EV3 kits. During school I use LEGO WeDo kits with kindergarteners as well as mice robots with my younger elementary students. Students use drag-and-drop block programming with Sphero Sprk+s robots. We also use Ozobots.
No matter what tool I’m using, my ultimate goal is to help my students communicate, work together, think critically and problem solve. My vision is to have my students learn how to learn and to adapt to the constant evolution of technology they will have in the workforce.
Kelsey Irizarry is Lower School Media Specialist at the Visitation School in Mendota Heights, MN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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