Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. For decades, these subjects have been the staple of the modern American educational system. The creative arts and physical education have also been played somewhat of a secondary role in that system. While all of these subject areas play a role in the development of our youth, they are based on career needs of the mid-20th century. According to this Pew Research study on Changes in the American Workplace, there has been an exponential demand on the social and analytical skills.
However, in our schools, we still teach the same “four core” areas and then fill in the rest with other subjects ranging from World Languages to Robotics. What’s interesting is, those original core 4 were considered the staple in preparing students for a 1950’s factory model work force. In this Sir Ken Robinson animated video, he talks about how our schools are designed for the assembly line. One only needs to look at the following graphic of companies that no longer exist to see that the American economy has shifted rapidly since the early 1970’s.
Compare the above with the graphic below which shows companies that didn’t exist in the early 1970’s that are now on Forbes top 200 list.
While there are some mainstays in terms of travel, service and retail companies, there is a huge growth in technology based companies. Now taking these new companies into account, let’s focus on the skills they desire for their future employee and see where schools stack up. This graphic by Tracy Clark (@tracyclark08) has been one that I’ve shared for many years. It’s sort of a “Soft Skills Bingo” chart of things that employers in those Fortune 500 companies look for when hiring.
I don’t see any of the “core four” subjects listed on that chart. While you could definitely argue that communication plays a role in language arts and critical thinking plays a role in math and science, I start to wonder why we are trying to “fit” these soft skills into our 1950’s core?
What would a modern core curriculum look like? And probably even more importantly, how would we transition from the current curriculum to a more updated model?
Let’s break apart both of these questions so I can attempt an answer.
Future Ready Curriculum –
If we were starting the American school system from scratch today, knowing what skills our students will need, we could change the subjects and not base them on what big-time publishers want us to focus on with our students. Building on some of the great work from FutureReady.org, the ISTE NETS for Students and keeping in mind those most desired future job skills from above, I would propose the development of the following 7 courses for every student:
Collaborative Outreach – A way for students to both serve the communities around them, but also work in teams, plan projects, and practice empathy.
Entrepreneurialism – Thinking “outside-the-box” but in a class form. Many of the ideas from this class could work hand-in-hand with the other courses listed here. Again, working in teams, students create solutions or products with the goal of developing the entrepreneurial spirit.
Communication & Design – Oral and written communication still play a major role in our current system, and by all accounts they will in the future. However, what about visual communication? What about making a visually pleasing presentation to pitch a product or reflect on an outreach opportunity? This course would encompass those skills.
Creative Expression – Having outlets to express yourself creatively and time for passion projects is huge in the workplaces of Google and Apple. The same should be true for schools. This course could be all about an app you are designing or a sculpture you are trying to complete (either by hand or by 3D printing).
Critical Problem-Solving – Much of the curriculum from math and science would fall into this course, although elements would be sprinkled in the other courses (like economics in the entrepreneurial course and science in the Environmental Mindfulness & Outreach courses)
Investigative Thinking – This course takes many of the research skills taught in social studies and applies it with a twist. How can looking back and investigating history help predict future outcomes? Traditional statistics would play a role in this course too.
Environmental Mindfulness – We need to allow time for students to be outside and/or active during the traditional class day. We also need to allow time for students to reflect on what they have learned and set goals for their future. This course takes some of traditional P.E. and mixes in meditation and deeper thinking exercises as well.
Transition to the Future
Creating these courses is the easy part. The hard part would be transitioning our current core areas into the above. It will take me an entire new blog post to outline that plan for this transition, as it involves some heavy change in mindset (by both educators and community). In the meantime, here’s where I feel parts of our current courses would fit in the above new curriculum:
Mathematics – Critical Problem-Solving, Entrepreneurialism, Investigative Thinking
Language Arts – Communication & Design, Investigative Thinking, Creative Expression
Science – Critical Problem-Solving, Environmental Mindfulness, Collaborative Outreach
Social Studies – Investigative Thinking, Communication & Design, Collaborative Outreach
World Languages – Collaborative Outreach, Communication & Design
Fine and Performing Arts – Creative Expression
Physical Education – Environmental Mindfulness
Career and Technology – Entrepreneurialism, Collaborative Outreach, Creative Expression, Communication & Design
If we really want to prepare kids for what’s next, whether that be in a high-tech career or the service industry, we need to transition our curriculum into areas that will help them be more successful in a highly automated future. I feel like the new core curriculum I am proposing does that while at the same time folding in some of the ‘classic’ curriculum models of our educational fore-fathers.
What did I miss? Chime in on the comments below.
For the past three years I’ve made an attempt at predicting what the future might hold for the Educational world, usually around the area of technology. The truth is, anyone can predict fairly obvious things (like Google will be the number 1 search engine), so what I attempt to do here is make some daring predictions that may or may not come true (like Alta Vista will make a comeback! Ok…maybe not that daring). Here’s a look at my 2013 and 2014 predictions which I also review every year to see how I did. Some of my predictions that have gone right include my 2013 predictions that a non-Apple devices will rise up to challenge iPads in education (see Chromebooks) and my 2014 that a new form of social media will crop up with teens (see YikYak or Whisper).
And so, I present to you, my 2015 bold predictions that are sure to go wrong this year.
Classrooms will become automated
I’m not talking about the learning in the classrooms becoming automated, this is more about the low-hanging fruit in our schools. Things like attendance, daily quizzes, etc can be done so much more efficiently with technology however they still require an element of human interaction (and teacher time). I can see a future where a student walks into a classroom and the room “knows” he/she is there, thus eliminating the need for attendance (and saving hundreds of instructional minutes a year). While this may seem big brother-ish and far fetched, I’m working with a company called Signal 360 that works on something called proximity marketing using uBeacon technology. It wouldn’t be that far-fetched to see this one come true.
Pearson will lose its testing contract in Texas
With over 50% of the UK-based company’s income coming from the state of Texas and it’s500 million dollar contract, the people at Pearson could be sweating it this year as their contract comes up for renewal in the Lone Star state. It’s no secret that Pearson is now under investigation with the FBI for it’s back-room dealing done during the L.A. iPad fiasco. Add to that a recent turbulent legislative session around standardized testing (finally!) and you start to see that Pearson could be in for a surprise this year when the contract comes up for renewal. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you are a Pearson-supporter) there are not really any other companies out there that can swoop in and grab that contract, making this prediction probably more asinine than bold. But here’s hoping….
Wearables will take over the world…and then regress
Between the Apple Watch (debuting in the next couple of months) and this gadget known as the “Ring” unveiled today at CES 2015, we’ve become smitten with wearable technology and the internet of things. I predict we’ll reach critical mass by mid-July, at which point someone will have vision problems from their Google Glasses (ala Naven Johnson’s OptiGrab invention) or get in a car accident trying to get driving directions from their watch thus resulting in the creation of the “People Against Wearables” (P.A.W.) activist group.
A human battery level app will be invented
Realizing this is counter to the above prediction, wouldn’t it be great if you could see how much energy you had left by checking an app? (or better yet a projection on your arm via something like this) “Sorry Bob, I’d like to work on that project with you but I’m only at 14% and I need to recharge.” I’m hoping with all the wearable tech out there and the power of the internet, there will soon be a way to check this. Think about how much more productive you could be if you knew this data? Or better yet, what about if we knew this data about our students? The next step would be to invent a “Student Engagement Level” app. Now that would be something.
This year’s iPadpalooza APPmazing Race will bend the mind
Last year we premiered the APPmazing Race at our annual global event. This year, we’re stepping it up a notch as teams will compete on a series of challenges throughout the 3-day learning festival. At least one of the challenges we are working with in R&D is going to be pretty mind-stretching for teams participating. I can’t wait to see what they come up with! (come join the spectacle this year by registering here)
3D Printers will become common classroom (& household) items
Again, thinking bold here, but with the rapid price drop from $10,000 to closer to the $1000 range for a 3D printer, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think we could see these in everyone’s classroom (and house) at some point in the near future. Did you break that part on your washing machine or pencil sharpener? Just download the instructions and print the replacement part!
Someone will complete the 21 things every 21st century educator should do
Based on my blog post from the fall on this subject, I’ve heard a few people try and do some of the items on the list. It’s not meant to be a challenge, it’s more to inspire thinking and ways to integrate everyday technology that kids use into learning, however it would be cool if someone actually did all the items on the list (and then blogged about it.) I’m working on a book version of this post too with Sean Junkins (see final prediction), so hopefully this will continue to grow and it would great to have an example of someone actually doing this to credit in the book.
Drones will make their way into education
Forget all this chatter about Amazon and military use of drones, when will they make their way into education? I’ve seen these given away at educational technology conferences, but I’ve yet to see any actual good application of drones in terms of learning. I can see science really getting a boost from having access to this technology right away. Imagine the old “egg drop” experiment recorded from an aerial view of a drone? Or how about athletics and band using a different view of their formations?
Someone will complete the Billy Madison #Student4aday Challenge…maybe me?
In December I took the #student4aday challenge and became a 10th grader for day. It was enlightening in many ways but over the winter break I started to reflect on how well do we really know our students in all grades K-12? A single day as a 10th grader is a start, but I’m thinking we need to dig deeper and expand the grade-levels of the challenge. I would love for someone to complete what I’m calling “The Billy Madison #student4aday Challenge” based on the cult-classic movie staring Adam Sandler. In the movie, Billy has to go through all grade levels from K-12 to get his diploma. We should do the same thing! Rather than being passive about this, I’m going to challenge myself to be a student in every grade level at some point in the next year and challenge other administrators to do the same. As the principal in the movie states, “Mr. Madison, that was be one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard…” although my last prediction may be even more insane.
Carl Hooker will FINALLY publish a book
This has been on my radar for the past couple of years. As I hear more and more people tell me “you should write a book!” I’m starting to believe it (I know…that’s a scary thought). Even if my mom is the only one who buys it, I’m still hoping to publish something this year. I’ve got collaborations in the works on a couple of books and I’m working on a couple of my own ideas too…just need to find the time.
Some of these predictions I have direct control over and others I’ll be watching from a far (or on twitter) to see if they happen. At any rate, I get the feeling that 2015 will be another progressive year of change in the classroom when it comes to technology. And while some of these predictions may not come to fruition, I’m just happy to be a part of this change.
Happy new year everyone!