Preparing Students for the Jobs of the Future at ISTE 2015

ISTE 2015 I Can Imagine wall graphic

Think back 35 or 40 years and imagine Steve Jobs, in his garage, building the beginnings of what was at the root of what we now call the personal computing and smart-phone industries. It is incredible to think about the power of his imagination at a time when there were no jobs in the paper for computing in the Silicon Valley. And now imagine what jobs or industries are yet to come.

According to research at World Bank, only one in five of today’s elementary students will find a job that exists today. So how do we shape our educational system to give students the tools they will need to be successful? This is a subject that’s important to me, both professionally and personally. I have three sons and want to point them in a direction that’s going to lead to fulfilling and hopefully lucrative jobs.

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on this topic, featuring of a broad range of voices in education last week at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia. The subject—“Reimagining Learning to Prepare Today’s Students for the Jobs of the Future”—inspired a thoughtful discussion about how we ensure that students will be successful in careers that we can’t even imagine today.

There was a common theme among our panelists’ points of view, that we must help students build critical-thinking skills versus train them for projected “jobs du jour.” Mickey Revenaugh, director, New School Models, Pearson; and co-founder and executive vice president, Connections Education, talked about a resurgence of “good old liberal arts education.” Jeff Pence, 7th-grade English language arts teacher from Canton, Georgia said, “Written communication is not going away” and noted the importance of building foundational literacy skills using innovative education-technology tools.

Fran Newberg, Ed.D., deputy chief, Office of Educational Technology for School District of Philadelphia discussed a focus on literacy—teaching students to read critically and convey ideas persuasively—as the center of their finding success in whatever fields they pursue. Her district is relying heavily on analysis to personalize learning, improving student achievement with project-based learning and blended learning.

Multiple panelists foresaw continued change in our educational systems—from the schools we know today, to a system where students increase the charting of their own pathways and support from coaches that help guide them through expanded blended learning opportunities.

Greg Toppo, education reporter, USA Today, and author of The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter talked about the importance of engaging students in learning. “We misunderstand play,” he said. “At a certain time, there’s this message that it’s time to stop having fun, but play can be beneficial all the way into adulthood, and it can help us learn at a deeper level.”

Mickey also focused on the shift toward personalizing learning and how online learning makes that possible. Today’s students will need to be “adaptable to the extreme,” she said, to find and create jobs they are passionate about. She also described how online learning helps young people develop emotional intelligence and social skills that are crucial for success. However, challenges lie ahead, the panelists agreed, in helping educators to sort through the philosophies and online tools to implement best practices to prepare students for the future.

One of the many ways that Pearson is helping prepare learners for the jobs of the future is through the Research & Innovation Network’s Kids CoLab, a program that involves students in the process of designing technology tools and solutions. Our young 6th-grade student panelist, Briana, enthusiastically described her participation in the program. “We work with art materials, build prototypes, do line voting, and make chart paper where we write down our ideas,” she explained.

Four Pearson panelist participants at ISTE

For now, Briana has not yet decided what she wants to do when she grows up, but she likes playing soccer and creating things, and is considering being a chef or an educator. Whether she chooses a career we know about today or one we’ve not yet imagined, there’s no doubt that Briana will be prepared to succeed. With great minds in education like our panelists, and the more than 21,000 participants from 76 nations at ISTE 2015–as evidenced in this infographic–paving the way by building critical-thinking, collaboration, and creativity skills there is no limit to what today’s students will be able to do.

Tell us your biggest take-away from ISTE if you were in attendance, and if not, give us your perspective about what critical skills students will need to learn in order to be successful in the future.



About the Author
Alfred Binford

Alfred Binford

Joining Pearson in late 2014 as Managing Director of Assessment & Direct Delivery in North America, Alfred Binford now leads Pearson’s sales and business development activities for State and National Services, Clinical Assessment, and Connections Learning. He is focused on further developing Pearson’s comprehensive portfolio of assessments that help administrators, teachers, students, and parents improve education outcomes.

Alfred has over 25 years of experience in the technology and telecommunications industries and has led large teams across the U.S. and around the world. Most recently, Alfred served as CEO of Mycom North America. Before Mycom, he held senior leadership positions with Vodafone, Amdocs, and Unisys, where his work included driving business development and delivering on large K-20 contracts such as The California State University system, Chicago Public Schools, and Detroit Public Schools.