In this third of a series of posts, Intel’s America’s Regional Director for Government and Education shares his insights into how today’s students can prepare for tomorrow’s challenges and how industry partners can best support the development of these skills.
How can we help students to develop the skills they need for the future?
I think about this through the lens as a technologist and policy practitioner—helping customers and industry partners in the education community—but I also think of vital student skills as a parent of a five year-old boy and a seven year-old girl.
First, I ask myself: “What are skills that are relevant for students and educators as we undergo tectonic technological, demographic, policy, and social changes?”
Like many in our industry, I think about the excitement of robotics, autonomous platforms, augmented and virtual reality learning experiences, fast ubiquitous networks, self-provisioning on-demand cloud educational services, and the implications of emerging technologies such as block-chain. The combination of these technologies all advancing at once is changing everything at a very rapid pace.
I also think a lot about the skills that will enable future innovators to succeed in this type of technologically immersive environment and whether we are putting those skills in place at our schools and in our homes. I also think about student safety, digital citizenship, and equitable access to technology as things move more quickly: especially the association between opportunity and skills and how having access to the best technology can create opportunity or—for those who don’t have access—how a lack of essential skills can be a limiting factor.
When I interview a potential employee today, I don’t ask them: “Tell me about your last three jobs.” I don’t want to know what job they did: I want to know what skills they developed in those jobs and how those skills were applied to solve problems. That’s what leaders and managers hire for: skills. Skills such as technical aptitude, the ability to bring others together, the ability to be collaborative and to team with people, to be intellectually curious and adaptable, and to solve problems as a member of a large and often complex team or ecosystem.
I believe the skills that we see in practice today are in line with the ideas and thinking that leading industry organizations like P21, SETDA, CoSN, and ISTE have been promoting for many years. It’s crucial to instill critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration skills into our students through the right curriculum, pedagogical practices, the right physical spaces, technology, and—of course—great teachers!
When I think of my own kids and the students we see in today’s classrooms, my hope for them is to not just be consumers of products and services, but to also be the developers of new products and services: actively participating in the creation of new technologies and capabilities because they have been taught and immersed in the types of skills needed to thrive as a creator and innovator.
So what skills are required to be able to do that?
Coding should be a mandatory part of every curriculum today and we see both national agendas and local policy agendas going in that direction: something we as a country are not moving fast enough to implement. I have introduced my seven year-old girl to coding using Intel maker kits, and while her curiosity far exceeds her skills today, it’s great to see her excitement about building things and seeing how things actually work under the hood.
We want students to deeply understand how things actually work and we want to instill or unleash the excitement and intellectual curiosity to create. It’s part of the maker and innovator mentality that Intel and Intel’s CEO is so passionate about.
I think coding is a great entry point: whether a high school student or a first grader. Beyond that, you must have the skills to learn and adapt quickly because things are moving so quickly that what you know today may be and will most likely be completely irrelevant in six months. That may not hold true for all professions, but it is certainly true in ours! Lastly, the ability to excel in a diverse workplace with many different points of view and perspectives: this requires excellent communication, listening, and collaboration skills. All of this adds up to every student having a growth mind-set if they are going to succeed.
What can industry partners do to support the development of these skills?
No one entity in the industry can solve every problem and we are fortunate to have so many companies that are passionate about education. It takes a broad ecosystem to address a diverse system of learners and school systems. When you think about curriculum providers, professional development capabilities, infrastructure companies…there’s innovation in every part of the education sector and it’s continuous, whether it’s pedagogy and professional development or innovation at the device and platform level. You truly need that entire ecosystem and collaboration across that ecosystem to make things work in a successful way.
Intel has over 90 ecosystem partners that we engage with in different ways throughout the tech-ed communities: partners who have the scale, the means and the skill-sets to have an impact on students in a very positive way. Intel and our peer industry partners invest significantly in everything from professional development, coding academies, to professional certifications. We each use our core competencies to add unique value to move the skills issue forward.
How does training and professional development figure into the equation?
I have seen the impact of programs such as Intel Teach, and have worked closely with former teachers now working at Intel or teachers in our Visionary program. Each of them, over many years, has taught me how crucial professional development is to the successful utilization of technology in the classroom and therefore the support students need in developing future-proof skills.
The data is clear across the education landscape: irrespective of the amount of technology in a classroom, success in the classroom is about who is teaching. We know this as parents and as professionals in the industry, and that point is constantly backed up by empirical data and research.
Are you optimistic about the future of technology in education?
I am personally very optimistic. Progress is not always a straight line and there are always arguments for and against technology in the classroom: and that argument has been on-going for two decades as technology has advanced, adapted, and changed. In an earlier blog, we talked about how things can go wrong with technology implementations. My experience is that, when technology is applied in a thoughtful, programmatic manner, by skilled practitioners, the result can be excellent. As we see new capabilities and technologies advance, I think “implementation” will continue to be the core differentiator in realizing the promise and utility of technology to give students the skills they need to succeed in today’s world.