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Written by Nickey Khem, BSD Education
With the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there have been significant changes and disruptions to various industries. The advancement of technology in the past decade has transformed the way we live and work.
Some jobs will disappear as they become automated, like those in factories and administrative roles, while new jobs will surface to meet the disruptions brought about by Industry 4.0. Therefore, it is certain that we need to re-align our priorities in equipping our children with the digital skills needed to stay in pace in 2020 and beyond.
Educators globally have been identifying essential digital skills for their curriculum to help make their students future-ready. After 7 years of working with schools worldwide to integrate technology education across all subjects, I’ve identified a list of 3 key digital skills I believe will play a crucial role in students’ development and success when they enter the workforce.
Traditionally, problem-solving involves applying a standard set of steps and processes which includes defining the problem, setting a goal, deciding on the best solution, and applying it.
However, these steps have become insufficient when trying to solve more complex problems that will be presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution. The problems faced now often change after a solution is provided, thus requiring to observe these changes and cycle back to reflect upon them.
A good process that is used on more complicated problems is the RATIO (Reflect, Analyze, Target, Implement, Observe) Problem Solving steps, which was introduced by the CoThink Academy.
Not only does this process allow us to better tackle complex issues and problems but it also introduces a deeper critical thinking skillset into the process by focusing on objectives and possible methods and tools to solve them.
This allows students to learn the important steps such as reflecting and observing which allow solutions to be iterated upon to match the ever-changing demands of the future workforce.
An example of RATIO being used in the workforce is how the manufacturing industry used it to tackle their bottling line and during the Observe phase, they identified issues that they had to cycle back and reflect upon.
An example of a future complex problem will be maintaining privacy as more of our daily lives become digital. With the advancements of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), our daily devices such as fridges can compile data, can we use this data collected about what is in our fridge and what purchases we are making to help reduce global waste?
For more than half of the jobs we see today, 30% of tasks are automatable. As technology rapidly evolves, previously revered breakthroughs are quickly forgotten, and specialized skill sets become obsolete. Creative thinking allows us to be agnostic to technologies and think outside the box when using them to tackle challenges they will face in the future.
Therefore an important skill for the future workforce facing technologies such as automation is creative thinking. Technologies such as automation are simply tools that can be seen to augment us, as opposed to replacing us. These tools heavily rely on our creative thinking to identify novel ways to use them to solve problems.
An example of this is how the retail sector is currently using automation to handle transactions currently but aims to use it to provide the sales teams information on their customers that will lead to more personalized customer experience.
To ensure a future workforce, we must be able to do what machines are unable to.
It is important to invest in the growth of people who are creative and versatile. And, who are eager to learn and will be flexible through each technological advance.
Outside of the usual tech skills, I believe it is important to look at transferrable or soft skills that allow us to collaborate and work with others as well.
Social and emotional skills, such as self-awareness, empathy, respect for other individuals
and the ability to communicate will be essential as classrooms and workplaces
become more ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse. Human interaction in the workplace involves collaborating as teams, with people playing off of each other’s strengths and adapting to changing circumstances. Such non-repetitive interaction is at the core of the human advantage over machines.
To acknowledge and respond to these global connections, schools can promote certain social and emotional skills that are considered to be related to cognitive skills, such as visual processing to allow students to practice solving logical problems in math visually to allow them to envision or comprehend the information.
Education may foster the types of attitudes and values, such as openness and respect for others as individuals, that students need in order to be more inclusive and reflective of more diverse societies that they will find when they enter the workforce of the future.
In addition to our experiences, research held by some of the leading industry experts identify the importance of these digital skills as well. An example of this is the research held by Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Survey which showcases an increase in demand for digital skills.
If you’re interested in chatting more about future-ready skills, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Or if you want to learn more about how you can bring digital skills to your classroom, check out our ready-to-use curriculum Technology Education here: https://bsd.education/offerings/programs-of-learning.
Written by Chris Geary, BSD Education
Technology has become ubiquitous and intrinsic to every aspect of life. However, rather than the demands of what we need to create, it is the impact of what has been created that is driving change. Automation is the singularly most defining influence of technology in the workforce moving forward over the next 50 years. In this article I am not going to further define the potential stages of automation and its relationship with the evolution of machine intelligence and beyond. Simply put, automation is the means through which roles traditionally undertaken by humans have the potential to be replaced by technology. In theory, we will have the technological capability to replace all roles, but this is diminished in terms of both time and realization when you simultaneously consider implementation and validation, economics, and socio-political considerations.
What we are seeing now and will continue to witness in the coming decade is that automation is replacing the most sequenceable and repetitive tasks and is therefore changing the relationship of the person doing that job with their industry. This means that if the person does not evolve their skill set, then their value to the economy is diminished.
At the same time, we are seeing that roles requiring significant managerial, judgement and interpretation capacities are furthest from the sphere of automation so in essence are becoming increasingly valued. The breadth of data interpretation and implementation of technology that has to be overseen and led at a managerial level is, however, dramatically increasing the necessary digital skill set requirements of this group.
The effect of this phenomena is that automation is now effectively squeezing the workforce at the middle causing the shift as described in the diagram below:
Existing roles in the workplace, having been pushed up and down have left behind a need for workers to take on enhanced roles with different skill sets. My illustrative situation here is a manual laborer, previously working on a production line whose manual role has been replaced by a robot. The laborer, however, has a wealth of experience as to how the production line works and how different issues that occur on the production line will have an interdependent effect on other areas of the production process. The laborer now oversees a group of machines that do his / her former role monitoring data and information, making adjustments to production and communicating with the humans in other parts of the process to be aware that all the machines are operating in the optimal fashion to facilitate production.
Whilst the laborer’s work is still based upon the knowledge of production, the skills through which the laborer now works involve data analysis and interpretation, critical thinking, and communication and collaboration with coworkers. This example is deliberately simple in this situation in reference to a single laborer. As we progress up the scale of seniority in companies, we will find that the range of technical capabilities held by an individual or understood by and individual as being present within their broader team will become increasingly demanding.
Aligning to this, McKinsey’s study from May 2018 illustrated the effect that skill shifts will have in the way that people use skills during their working time.
So what does all of this mean for schools and broader educational institutions in their capacity as organisations that contribute pivotally in preparing people to join the world of work? It means that the development of social and emotional skills and technology skills is a critical part of learning for students. It is simply not possible to continue to consider that educational needs of people are being met where traditional systems of education are failing to prepare students with technology and social emotional readiness as a forefront consideration in the ongoing development of educational programs.
Considering the real world implementation of these skill sets as illustrated above, where educational institutions focus on implementing educational technology and technology education programs across schools they should be doing it with the development of “digital skills” in mind. So what does this mean?
I see digital skills as a more broadly defined skill set than hard technology skills alone encompassing technical skills, soft skills and values in a combined model as below. The world of technology is colossal and evolving quickly and is therefore becoming exponentially more complex than an individual can grasp on an ongoing basis by themselves. The technical skills a student learns at schools won’t be the same required 20 years into their careers which is why it is important to focus on transferable skills and values.
It is really important that educators allow a range of experiences for learners to find the area of technology that is their strength and their passion, something that they will have a willingness to follow, be curious about and learn resiliently for the rest of their lives as it continually evolves. At the same time, developing the empathy to recognise the strengths in others that students can collaborate with, and valuing where they cover the gaps in what students themselves lack will be critical to be adaptable to challenges that arise.
It is important to note here that there really isn’t a right answer when it comes to selecting particular technologies like programming languages or software a learner will be exposed to. There are always a number of technologies available, the merits of which can be argued for or against. What I have recognized in observing what students achieve and how they apply what they have learned around the world is that the ability to create content, understand design and user experience, and analyze and interpret data really become the key abilities that are most critical to nurture.
I illustrate the digital skills set that I believe schools need to be focusing on developing in thinking about how technology is being implemented and applied in their schools below:
My final comment on the evolving role of technology education revolves around the planning of the learning journey. So much of digital skills education is implemented on a piecemeal basis – short activities off the shelf without progression or interdisciplinary relationships properly considered. This would not be the case in the teaching and learning of mathematics or science and so should not be the case for digital skills. It does pose a greater challenge to educators as an area of learning that is not as well understood as the learning of more traditional subjects and enquiries. However, given that the world of work will not wait, technology is evolving ever faster and not to become any simpler, the longer that such effort is delayed and addressed, the higher the mountain to climb will become.
Whether introducing a young child to learning with and about technology for the first time, or re-skilling an adult learner, you must initially build confidence and self-awareness. I refer to this as the “primary” phase, although it is age agnostic, as all learners are generally coming to the learning of digital skills for the first time. This is the phase to experiment and discover interests, as broad a range of applications of technology as possible and a tool kit of projects that the learner is confident and able to re-use regularly.
The second, “middle” phase is the time to deepen understanding of both the learner’s own skills and abilities that have become most refined and interesting, as well as those of the peer group around them. It is notable that for community based learners, the library commons movement is promoting the capability of library spaces as enablers of circulation of individuals within them. The practice of networking amongst people is an excellent key to communication.
The final phase, that I call the “higher” phase, is really the point in learning at which the portfolio of work begins to turn towards demonstrating capability in relation to real or fictitious scenarios of the world of work.
As digital skills are largely uncertified and untested, they are most effectively demonstrated by sharing what you can create within a portfolio of work. This gives everyone an incredible opportunity to show their skills as value is placed on what you can do rather than where the skills were learned or how the person performed on one test.
Technology is driving the changing state of the workforce and the skill shifts across industries that are accompanying this. The change is already here which should compel educational systems to robustly and immediately implement digital skills learning that will prepare people at all career stages to be successful because of change not incase of it.
Whilst job automation might appear daunting, and will certainly require adaptation at all levels, it by no means tolls a deathly bell for humans in the workforce. Economically and socially, countries need the humans and the machines producing side by side.
The learning process for digital skills requires reflection on, understanding of, and empathy for others. The judgements, considerations and interactions that define us most strongly and clearly as humans are what will most enduringly be of greatest value to us in an automated world. So perhaps in light of all of this, the greatest impact of technology in both the world of work and of education will eventually simply be to make us focus on and value what it is that makes us most human after all.
Written by Chris Geary, BSD Education
There is considerable discussion about the impact technology will have on the future of the workforce and consequently education’s role in preparing people to join it, or enable their ongoing participation.
The reality of what we are seeing is the evolving relationship between humans in the workplace and machines giving rise to new jobs. Often, however, these new jobs are related to previous experience. This process began a number of years ago and is gaining pace, but many of the economies in the world are not looking to push humans out of the workforce. Instead they are looking to add in machines while keeping humans employed to give a nett productivity gain.
As the world of work evolves, so must the education systems that prepare its participants, but what does all of this mean for schools and broader educational institutions?
The world of technology is colossal, evolving quickly and therefore becoming exponentially more complex than an individual can grasp on an ongoing basis by themselves. Therefore educational systems are going to need to give students the opportunity to develop key hard skills in areas of technology, accompanied by the soft skills to partner with others that complete the remaining pieces of the puzzle.
A blend of key soft and hard skills are therefore the digital skills that we are talking about as critical for the future.
Given the speed that technology has developed, particularly in recent years, it has not been possible for education systems to dedicate sufficient time to plan the learning journey or progression for digital skills, resulting in so many programs implemented on a piecemeal basis.
The change being driven by technology is already here, and therefore compels educational systems to robustly and immediately implement digital skills learning that will prepare people at all career stages to be successful because of change, not incase of it.
In the full text of this article, I will discuss more about the current state of evolution of the workforce, and the data that illustrates what it needs. We will explore more about what defines digital skills, how educational institutions can implement their learning and how.
At the end of the day, the greatest impact of technology in both the world of work and education will be to make us focus on and value what it is that makes us most human after all.
Growing up when sci-fi ruled the world with fictional narratives of intergalactic space travel, robots, and Artificial Intelligence; my 12 year old self would be disappointed that we can’t be served breakfast by AI robots in a biodome on …
Written by Charlotte Brearley, BSD Education
The world is now a truly digital place. Billions of people from all around the world communicate digitally, work digitally, learn digitally and even play digitally every day. Your students were probably exposed to a tablet or smartphone at a very early age and have grown up using technology. For the majority of your students, the digital space is their modern-day playground.
However they make use of technology, all of our students are already digital citizens. But the important question to ask is: are they ‘good’ digital citizens?
Students can’t be expected to know how to navigate the far-reaching digital space that has so much potential without any guidance. It is vital that we as educators prepare them for a future where technology is everywhere and help them navigate the digital space in positive ways. This is where digital citizenship comes in.
Digital citizenship is a wide and varied topic that can be interpreted in numerous ways. For us at BSD Education, we agree with Richard Culatta from ISTE who believes that schools need to shift the way they think about and teach students to be good digital citizens. All too often, digital citizenship is focused just on online safety or what not to do in the digital space. Of course, these are important lessons, but what we really need to focus on is the potential of being a digital citizen. As Culatta says, digital citizenship should be about how we can use technology to make the world a better place for ourselves and others.
A ‘good’ digital citizen should see the world as an interconnected community of a range of different people and understand that technology can be used for the benefit of ourselves, but more importantly for the benefit of others. Digital citizens will have the skills and knowledge to communicate and consume in the digital space, but vitally they will have the skills and knowledge to solve problems and create solutions.
This level of understanding cannot be taught in just one-off classes. Instead, it needs to be explored and explained as a way of thinking and should, therefore, be integrated across classes and content areas.
What are your thoughts on Digital Citizenship? Has your school integrated Digital Citizenship into the curriculum yet? Feel free to discuss with me at email@example.com and we could feature you in our upcoming articles!
Written by Mo Qureshi, BSD Education
When it comes to Technology Education at BSD, we hope to inspire students to create with technology but also highlight the importance of developing solutions that solve real world problems. We believe that creating any new technology should be rooted in a strong purpose to help people. We help emphasize this by weaving technology education projects into all subjects and infusing them with Design Thinking skills.
Design Thinking is a process for solving problems creatively. The three core pillars of Design Thinking are:
Design Thinking helps capture the needs of the people, gives insights into the opportunities that are available and gives clear ideas for a refined human centred solution or product.
Let’s see how we prepare students on their Design Thinking skills via BSD programs of learning.
All of our courses end with creating a project for a specific use. This encourages students to listen to their end users and find out who they are, their demographics, why and how will they use the project effectively. This helps foster students’ empathy – starting the process of Design Thinking.
After understanding the end users, students will start to code their project. Depending on the topic and level of the course, students are introduced to the basics of coding or other additional coding concepts. Based on the requirements of the project, students may learn additional technical skills like designing characters or logos, understand color theory or branding or even writing copy for their project.
As they work towards finishing their projects, students are guided to share and test their prototype with their peers and, if possible, with some end users using an automatically generated URL or QR code. This helps them get real time feedback and adjust their project based on the response.
For instance, in our Game Development course, after creating the first version of the game, students are asked to demo their game and share it with their peers for testing and feedback. Based on feedback, the students may enhance their game by adding additional challenges, levels, additional characters, updating the scoring system or even re-writing the gameplay.
As in any game, the experience of the users is key to its success. While their peers are trying the game, they are asked to observe how it’s being played and request for feedback.
Students will then need to consider the feedback they receive, and learn to exercise their judgement as to what will ultimately be a compromise between the features they like versus the feedback they have received on what the users want. Based on the observations and peer feedback, students can determine how they can continue to improve their projects to test it again. This testing and feedback cycle is not limited to a single cycle, it is repeated as often as needed to make the game perfect – emulating the Design Thinking process of prototyping -> testing -> tweaking -> testing. This is great preparation for their lives as a whole as and an excellent exercise in giving and receiving feedback.
With technology becoming ubiquitous it is an increasing and urgent responsibility to teach our students that technology is not the solution to problem but tools used by people to solve problems. To effectively solve problems, technologies should be built with keeping the people using them at the center; and employing Design Thinking skills helps achieve precisely this.
Written by Mike Dixon, BSD Education
The ISTE conference is a wonderful time of year where educators from around the world gather to discuss the latest trends and technologies impacting education. It’s a time to look forward to the new challenges and opportunities that face students with a positive attitude and an open mind. This year, BSD was fortunate to have the ISTE conference land straight on our doorstep, here in the city of Philadelphia.
During the weekend leading up to the conference, BSD hosted nearly one hundred educators onsite at our office atop the String Theory School in Philadelphia. The teachers in attendance represented states from across the US as well as multiple countries including Nigeria, Singapore, and Brazil. Over the course of the day, teachers shared experiences, built their personal networks and engaged with interactive workshops, lead by the BSD team. Here are some of the highlights!
To kick off the day, teachers gathered in the assembly hall at String Theory School to learn about the current innovations and future trends that are most impacting the modern workplace. We reflected on how the exponential growth of Big Data has thrust the world from a manufacturing centric economy into the Innovation Economy where information is king. Thinking ahead, we discussed how Artificial Intelligence is poised to challenge the idea of human employment and what it means to add value to society and fulfillment to your life.
As part of the opening remarks, we touched on two major benefits of students learning code: practicing Computational Thinking and Design Thinking. In many ways, Computational Thinking is problem-solving and fits nicely into many existing school subjects. Conversely, Design Thinking is an emerging focus for industry as a process for solving real-world problems for others. Coding can help to bring this aspect of learning into the classroom experience.
During the presentation, several insightful discussions arose from teachers including thoughts about Machine Learning and the future role of the computer as well as the negative consequences of under-represented minority groups in the development of Artificial Intelligence. As one teacher noted “Computer programs are a reflection of the human who coded them.”
Next, teachers broke up into smaller groups to participate in hands-on workshops where they had the opportunity to experience real world coding using BSD Online. Just as with our students, the experience level amongst teachers ranged from absolute beginner to experienced coding teacher. With the help of BSD Online’s guided projects, everyone was able to take something away from the experience.
The first session revolved around the challenge of incorporating technology into traditionally non-tech subjects. BSD’s platform was able to scaffold teachers to build a website about their chosen subject using real HTML and CSS code.
The full day workshop was a powerful experience, not only for the teachers who participated but for BSD as well. We exchanged insights and experiences with teachers from around the world, received an inside view of the concerns and struggles that teachers face in an ever-changing world, and built relationships that will grow to impact students around the world!
If you are a teacher or school administrator and would like to learn more about using technology in the classroom, please reach out to us! We can help you prepare your students for the ever–changing challenges of tomorrow and help them gain digital skills that will follow them into their future ambitions.
Written by Mo Qureshi, BSD Education
Earlier this month I was invited to present at the ACAMIS Spring Leadership Conference on Student Agency in Educational Technology Integrations. This article summarizes the key points from my presentation – definition and importance of student agency, concrete examples of student agency in action with teachers taking a lead in enabling this; and some tips school leaders can take back to school.
As Head of Learning Experience at BSD, a huge part of my job is to deliver professional development and coach teachers, as well as observe a wide variety of classroom settings. During coaching and classroom observations, I get the opportunity to see a wide variety of student agency in action.
But what is student agency? Eric Sheninger’s definition in his article, Student Agency: Moving from Talk to Action, captures the essence of what it’s about – “Student agency is about empowering kids to own their learning (and school) through greater autonomy. It is driven by choice, voice, and advocacy.”
Access to Internet-enabled devices in and outside the classroom has encouraged and allowed students to take control of their own learning. As educators, it’s now up to us to help students take responsible ownership of their learning as well as provide the right environment and support to nurture this.
In my visits to schools, I have observed that those which best promote student agency in technology settings have these common traits:
Now, if you are a teacher who uses technology in the classroom and wants to develop agency in your students here are some handy tips:
If you would like to see my entire presentation and would like me to share it with you, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Charlotte Brearley, BSD Education
Many schools recognize that bringing technology education into their offering is vital to ensuring the future success of their students. However, the practicalities of this can be challenging. Some common challenges we hear are: there is already too much curriculum to get through, staff find it challenging, and resources are too expensive.
Fortunately, there is more than one way to integrate technology learning into school life, so no matter what challenges may appear initially, you will find a way. We know all schools are unique with different objectives and challenges and, for this reason, we have outlined four approaches to integration that might work for you.
As a focused course
Technology can be taught as a stand-alone subject. This works well where a school is able to or has already carved out dedicated time, perhaps in a computing class or STEM class, with the sole objective of teaching technology. This approach ensures that students get the opportunity to focus purely on their digital skills.
In this space, we have our TechReady courses, which focus on bridging the gap between age-appropriate learning and developments in the real world, such as AI and big data.
Integrated into other subjects
Integrating technology can help make learning in other subjects more ‘real-world relevant’ or help bring subjects together to create exciting cross-curricular learning opportunities. Many schools do not have the available time to teach technology as a stand-alone subject so this enables integration without having to find lots of additional hours. It also allows you to align vital skills with the interests of your students. You can think about small or large scale technology projects and bring in different approaches depending on the topic that you are teaching. For example, why not get your students to create a blog instead of writing their next story in their textbook or perhaps you can think about using data visualization to demonstrate migration trends over time in geography.
At BSD, we have curated TechConnected projects that can be brought into any core subject. We focus on enhancing what is already happening in the classroom. This enables you to continue with your teaching almost as normal and simply bring in an activity that combines subject and technology learning. Through this approach, the subject becomes the context and the projects create a more engaging way for students to either learn the concepts of the subject or become a content vessel to present and reinforce what they are learning in the class.
After school activities
For those of you who do not have time during the school day to bring in technology learning, you can think about running an after-school activity focused on technology. In one of our previous issues, we explored why enrichment programs are so powerful and the benefits they offer students. Integrating in this way is an excellent starting point that can be built upon.
Out of school learning should be more open and exploratory so our Technovators program for after-school activities focuses on giving students the freedom to work with technology in a more creative way.
Do all three
Technology in the real world touches everything and impacts everyone. It cannot be isolated to one area or a group of self-selecting people and, in an ideal world, the school environment must reflect this. At BSD we advocate for infusing technology learning across everything so that students can make connections, follow their interests and understand how to use and apply technology to build solutions across contexts and you as a teacher can help enable this. We believe that regular exposure to technology in a range of different contexts is the best way to prepare students for using technology in their futures and to understand how to apply it in connection with their interests.
However, it is also clear that implementation across everything can rarely be the first step. Start with what best fits your school’s model and build from there. For more information about any of our curriculum offerings, contact us here.
Written by Rachel Brujis, BSD Education
You’ve decided you want to learn a new technique for the classroom. Now comes the tough question: where to go? How many times have we found ourselves combing through various MOOCs, teacher Instagram accounts, university continuing education courses, and online teacher resource guides only to realize that a full hour has gone by and we still haven’t come to a decision?
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! To make it easy for you, we have created a quick guide on some of our favorite resources for finding new techniques you can try in your classroom.