By James Anderson
CHANGE AND THE 21ST-CENTURY LEARNER
You don’t have to go far today before someone starts talking to you about the need to prepare our children for the future. Children in our schools will change not only jobs, but careers, multiple times. They will be using technologies that haven’t been invented to solve problems that don’t yet exist.
Exactly what that future will look like is anyone’s guess. Predicting the future is notoriously difficult, and all we can really be sure of is that the world is changing more rapidly now than at any other time in the past. The world is becoming more complex, more uncertain and more changeable than it has ever been before.
In the business world, people talk about these changes as “disruptions”: problems that interrupt the current way of working. Today, it’s business as usual: systems are in place, people know their roles and all is going well. But then something happens: a new technology emerges, a start-up company doesn’t play by “the rules,” the political climate changes. Put simply, something occurs that was not expected and, as a result, the business becomes unstable and must either adapt or perish.
In response to these disruptions, many businesses have adopted “agile systems”: systems that are responsive and flexible, so that the business can respond to disruptions as they arise.
The hope is that if the business is agile enough, it can respond quickly enough to take advantage of opportunities, deal with threats and, ultimately, be successful.
Basically, businesses are trying to ensure that they are increasingly responsive and adaptable in what has become an increasingly changing and challenging environment.
Of course, as educators, it is our job to prepare our young people for this world – a world of change and
disruption – and we have been grappling with this challenge for some time. We are aware of the need to develop “21st-century learners,” and we know that it is no longer enough to teach children what they need to know for life in a predictable world. So, preparing students for a world of change and disruption means we must teach them what to do when they don’t know what to do.
In response to this, there has been a shift away from teaching the “hard facts” to teaching the “soft skills.”
Rather than teaching children what to think, we have been asked to teach students how to be better thinkers.