The way we used to teach students in the past is no longer suitable and sustainable because it focused on the skills required for a different moment in time. There is a new teaching approach to be developed that involves a shift of perspective in preparing students for the present and for their future.
Since not every government in the world has an updated vision on what instruction should be like, educators play a crucial role in how they approach teaching and how they get students ready for real life in today’s society. They need to teach students a set of skills that will help them function as adapted and adaptable citizens that will eventually contribute to the growth of the entire society.
Nowadays, not having any computer skills makes you a misfit. Almost every job requires having a little bit of technical knowledge. Even our day to day lives revolve around technology, and having such skills has become a necessity. Therefore, it is our duty as educators to provide a well-rounded education to students to help them be an active part of society. Here are seven job skills that students must master:
1. Digital literacy
Having vital technology skills is as important as basic literacy skills. Digital literacy refers to collecting, creating, and sharing digital information in any environment: at school, at home, at work. These skills are not only necessary for jobs such as software developers, computer systems analysts, marketers, but also for jobs that are yet to be invented. I would also add that having digital citizenship skills is needed as well.
In this respect, I ask my students to research different topics and create articles for their blogs in which they collaborate in large teams, and find solutions to organize and prioritize their work online. Technology makes things easier in terms of communication since it brings students closer, increasing collaboration, and shaping their digital behaviour.
2. Effective communication
Today we are required to communicate in different ways, both orally and in writing, face-to-face, and online. These skills are necessary for jobs like sales, marketing, and customer service. Of real help are the interactive communication systems that allow students to work together and adapt to digital communication conventions. Students need to be able to convey and decode meaning in writing, not only orally.
Teachers can ask students to work remotely on team projects to foster better communication and collaboration skills. We can also encourage students to speak up and express their opinions and take full responsibility for their words by asking them to create podcasts on videos on different subjects, interview people in their community, report on local events, etc.
3. Curiosity and imagination
It is said that we are intrinsically born curious and creative, and somehow we lose these skills by the time we reach adulthood. Some argue that the educational system is to blame, so it should instead create the right environment to stimulate students’ curiosity and let their imaginations run free. This will help students engage better and be more motivated to learn, which in turn makes them retain information that can later be used in real life.
In this respect, I like to give students online quizzes at the end of a unit to help them revise the information by pinpointing the things they haven’t been able to grasp. This allows me to create follow-up activities to reinforce the knowledge my students lack. I usually let students come up with their own ideas on which activity to do next or choose from various alternatives that include digital tools.
4. Agility and adaptability
The society in which we live in screams for versatile and adaptable people ready to shift from one job to another, showcasing different skills on the way. Schools need to foster the right environment for students to explore various opportunities and engage in activities that require different skills.
I advise you to include the devices your students use, leverage them when you give different tasks, and also try to include various apps to solve them. A handy tool in developing adaptability in your students is using a learning management system (LMS) that facilitates the use of technology in many ways, requiring students to adapt to more than pen and paper assignments.
You can create discussions, debates, quizzes, essays, and even ask them to create visual, audio, and video content. Using an LMS, you can give tasks and create meetings, for which students receive automatic notifications. This way, they need to be agile and follow the deadlines and the schedules you requested.
5. Assessing and analyzing information
Information and access to it are crucial nowadays. It’s become like the air we breathe. But it can also be “polluted”. One has to be capable of distinguishing facts from fiction in this age of information; otherwise, all the “knowledge” we get may be more harmful than not.
You can ask students to research different perspectives on a subject online and analyze the data they find, assessing the value in that content and its importance on their education. Once developed, this ability helps students in their life-long learning process after they finish school, especially when it comes to online learning.
6. Critical thinking and problem solving
People need to have these two skills in any area of expertise. Real-life situations require us to come up with solutions and alternatives to different contexts, and being able to analyze possible paths to take is crucial.
By setting precise tasks, teachers can ask students to critically approach some topics and even challenge some already established views by offering their personal take on the subject with on the point arguments and justifications. This facilitates the learning process and develops self-confidence since students see that they can own an opinion which can even be accepted if appropriately motivated.
7. Shallow expertise
The concept refers to what some call the T-shaped person, who is preoccupied with developing a set of deep skills in one area of expertise and also achieving another set of supporting skills, also called soft skills, like collaborating with others, creativity, motivation, self-confidence. These later skills are the ones that make a difference in the workplace. You may own the hard skills (the knowledge) you need to do a job, but the soft ones offer the advantage you need.
As teachers, we can give students the chance to express themselves as they wish and how they feel comfortable, offline and/or online, individually and/or in teams, teacher-led and/or on their own, contributing to their self-esteem and motivation. This positive environment is what they need to be creative and explore new horizons, developing both the hard and soft skills. Technology is a critical tool in this process as it gives students an open door to self-discovery and social integration in this digital world.
As educators, we should focus on developing the ability to find and create digital content, filter information by approaching it critically and solve problems that require a lot of information, variables, and computing. Also, focusing on ways to facilitate communication and collaboration will contribute to better-adapted adults. In the meantime, we should not forget to leverage those innate qualities students have, like creativity, imagination, curiosity, to have fully developed citizens of the real and digital world.