Emerging Technologies and Schools

Nanotechnology, vertical farming, bio-imprinting: Have you heard of these emerging technologies?  Many of us have not.  However, according to some, these are the technologies of the future that will require workers.  For a quick overview of jobs that will most likely exist in the future, please watch this video:

Jobs that require manual labor or technical knowledge will be replaced with what economists call the “Second Machine Age.”  The types of jobs that are experiencing the most decreases in numbers include telemarketers, secretaries, accountants, technical writers, machinists, and economists.  Robotics, automation, and improvement in software are replacing workers.  You can watch a video about the dawn of the new machine age below:

The advances in technology mean that schools are currently preparing students for jobs that do not exist yet.  For example, in 2013, the top ten in-demand jobs did not exist in 2004.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average worker will have had 10-14 different jobs by the age of 38.  Many typically started and ended their work experience in the same career and even with the same employer.  In the past, schools taught students the skill set needed in this one career.  This will no longer be the norm since the changing pace of technology essentially makes current jobs a thing of the past.  Workers must continually change and adapt to keep pace with the ever-changing technology that has a real effect on the economy.

Thus, a reasonable question to ask is how do schools prepare students for an emerging and yet to be realized economy?  Comparing six different educational frameworks, the following four skill sets are common to all:

  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving

A secondary set of skills includes:

  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Global and cultural awareness
  • Information literacy
  • Leadership
  • Civic literacy and citizenship
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Social responsibility and ethics
  • Technology literacy
  • Initiative

How can schools, which are accustomed to testing for mastery of content through mid-terms, unit exams, or finals, prepare students for this new Knowledge Economy?  Obviously, students need to master the content, but the application of content is as, if not more, important.  Application of knowledge through project-based learning and experiential learning is an important educational tool.  The challenge is how to integrate these projects in a curriculum that demands learning content.  Daniel Korentz, a Professor of Education, explains this paradoxical challenge that schools face in this video.

Recognizing this need to include more project-based and hands-on learning, we are looking forward to offering new courses in the near future and revising our current curricula.  For example, we are looking to partner with Syracuse University’s Project Advance program to offer new courses such as Game Development & Animation that would allow students to apply principles of computer programming in creating their own virtual project.  Other existing courses, such as U.S. History Honors and Science Research, will be revised to meet the standards of Project Advance.  These revisions will place more of an emphasis on the application of material as opposed to the acquisition of knowledge.

As the rapid pace of technological development changes the way we do things, schools not only must adapt and change, but also begin to think about the skills that will be constant and always in demand now and in the future.