Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Future Outdated?

Reader Mrs. DeRaps reminds us as teachers about our responsibility to our kids:
I hear what Tom is saying and understand that change takes time. As a teacher, though, I wonder what price current students pay when they're under the guidance of teachers who're taking their sweet time in integrating technology into the classroom. Maybe they need those skills in the workplace and/or in post secondary classrooms? Maybe being uncomfortable or taking a risk for the sake of student learning is not too much to ask?

With responsibility comes risks.

Because failure to recognize this is akin to giving our kids outdated educations.

Educations good enough for the world we knew, perhaps. But that world doesn't exist anymore; so this is about taking a good hard look at the world of our kids and comparing it to the world we present in the classroom.

Because whereas we might like to think otherwise, this is about a kid's classroom having no reality-based relationship either to the kid's own life or to the expectations of what the kid will know and be able to deal with upon leaving school.

This is about a teacher, a faculty, an administration, and a school system having the authority to screw over a generation of kids because those constituents didn't feel 'comfortable' online.

These kids aren't entering your world. They are entering their world. And their world is our future.

And what does their world look like?

Here are the top five fastest growing jobs over the last ten years according to the US Government's Bureau of Labor Statistics:
1. Computer Software Engineers (Apps)
2. Computer Support Specialists
3. Computer Software Engineers (Systems)
4. Network and Computer Administrators
5. Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts

Actually, I fibbed. Those five jobs were the ones projected in 2001 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to be the fastest growing over the decade that would come.

In actuality, the fastest growing jobs over the last ten years -- including the ones forecast -- looked like a laundry list of tech and health industry careers.

The last decade's worth of labor statistics show those two industries with continued potential for sustained growth well into 2016 and beyond. The biggest of these, namely Information Systems and Health Care Support jobs -- fueled (terrible choice of words) by loss of manufacturing and an aging Baby Boomer population -- are the jobs our kids will be competing for.

Now ask yourself: how many kids in your school are getting more than a cursory glance at what's going on in tech and health?

We've got a current financial crisis and a looming health care crisis facing us in the U.S. and we still insist that all high school students take two years of textbook Algebra?

What about Computer-based Statistics as mandatory for graduation? What about merging your math and art departments and offering Network Analysis and App Design as standard classes? Let the kids learn Algebra and Trig through application; let them learn that the Arts ain't all hoity-toity, but in fact contribute to the way we perceive just about everything in the material world. What about combining Social Studies and Health classes? Geography and the History of Medicine? What about creating Literature classes specifically geared towards Math and Science kids in high school just like they offer Quantitative Reasoning courses for English majors in college?

Getting teachers to integrate social tech into their daily regime is just the beginning. We've got curricula that are still trying to catch up to the 1990s.

What concerns me is that in terms of the very structure of how we set up school, we're letting our future get away from us in our insistent and dogged pursuit of getting the past right. Looking backwards, we stumble towards a future outdated.


  1. It is kind of crazy to think about how education is decades behind the job market. Is this why people have to continually go back to school? I really worry for my students, who often do not own a computer, and when they do use one for anything besides games or drill & practice software, it's in my lab once a week for 45 minutes.

    If we asked teachers what kinds of jobs their non-teacher friends have and how they use technology in their jobs, the need for tech integration and education would be obvious.

    P.S. You inspired me to go paperless in my tech help requests. All requests must be made using a Google Doc Form. I told the staff I was 'going paperless.'

  2. Well... you're kind of jumping far afield from the original question of teaching social media.

  3. With teaching to the test and the financial situation in education it is hard for teachers to fit in to the day all they would like to. Most students would rather learn with technology based studies instead of the old school pencil and paper way. But as an educator it is hard to find time to learn all the new ways to integrate technology into our classes. We must feel comfortable using it ourselves in order to incorporate in to our lessons. Technology is a powerful way to capture the talents of our diverse student poulation and bring them together as a community. With our society and the work force changing with great speed our states and school districts need to take time to be sure the staff and equipment are up to date. I know from experience that some staff developments are rushed through without proper time for the educators to become comfortable enough to incorporate them.


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