3 Suggestions for Helping Students Meet the Demands of an Automated Future

by | Jan 20, 2021 | Featured, Learning Design

Trend Micro recently shared new research revealing that more than two-fifths (41%) of IT leaders believe that AI will replace their role by 2030.

According to the survey results, only 9% of respondents felt confident that their jobs would not be replaced by AI over the next decade. By contrast, 32% said they believed technology would evolve to the point where all cybersecurity was automated, with little need for human intervention.

This survey, while focused on one specific industry, is another good reminder that none of us should be too comfortable with our current jobs, particularly if they are jobs with routine, repetitive, and predictable processes that can be clearly defined and be translated into concrete workflows.

Estimates vary but, as researchers at McKinsey reported in 2019, “almost 40% of U.S. jobs are in occupations that are likely to shrink — though not necessarily disappear” due to automation and other technological advances.

What will all of the people who hold these jobs do? My guess is they’ll do what they’ve always done. Adapt.

After all, as this U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows, people currently between the ages of 56 and 63 have already averaged almost 12 different jobs in their lifetime.

To be clear, the question isn’t whether professions and jobs will continue to evolve rapidly and force people to adapt and take on new roles. That’s a given.

The real question is how education can support today’s high school and college students who are already on their journey toward a brave new fluid world of work.

Here are three suggestions.

1. Refocus the overall purpose of traditional education

In the 21st century, preparing students of all ages for both personal and professional success means providing a thinking and knowledge foundation that will allow them to adapt and grow (learn new things) throughout their lifetime. In other words, traditional K-20 education should no longer be viewed as the “end,” but rather the “beginning.” What students learn from kindergarten through college is the foundation for lifelong learning success. In today’s world, preparing students for their 9th or 10th job is equally important as helping them land their first one.

2. Integrate skills and competencies as a primary focus-point in the curriculum

Shifting our education priorities from core subject domains to lifelong learning (and professional) success in the 21st century necessarily entails the integration of key skills and competencies as into our core curriculum. These cannot be “add-ons” but, rather, must become part of our thinking in terms of what we teach, how we assess, and how we evaluate the success of our education and the progress of our students.

Over time, it is just as important to ask of our students “What can they do?” as it is to ask “What do they know?” We must also provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their abilities via widely acceptable evidence through their assignments and projects.

3. Redesign transcripts as demonstrable evidence of skills and lifelong learning capabilities

As we shift our focus to skills and competencies and demonstrable evidence, we must also work to transform the shape and contents of the traditional transcript. The 21st-century transcript should, from the beginning of a student’s learning journey, be a comprehensive learner record that contains specific, widely acceptable evidence of content studies, as well as skills and competencies developed. This learner record should be owned by the students and should support all of the formal and informal learning experiences they accrue throughout their lives.

Automation Shouldn’t Be a Surprise to Educators

This automated future has been slowly inserting itself into our lives, from self-checkout lanes to medical diagnosis by mobile app. This shouldn’t catch anyone by surprise, especially those in education. Preparing our students to understand why they are learning what they are learning and arming them with a comprehensive and demonstrative portfolio of transferable skills will help them be ready for whatever their futures hold.

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