While many of us come from the ‘digital migrant’ era, our children are born and bred in the era of the digital natives. They live in a fast-paced, ever-changing technological era where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly displacing humans and destroying the job market. What is the implication of this? How does this change the way we look at 21st century learning?
As absurd as this may sound, how do we ensure that 15 to 20 years from now, our children don’t end up losing their jobs to robots? How are we going to make 21st century learning relevant to the demands of the times?
In fact, currently there’s a well-known website called, Will robots take my job? This website classifies the risk of automation of jobs. All you got to do is type in a job title and it will tell you the odds of the job being automated in the future. Thankfully for me, writers and authors only have a 3.8% chance of automation so it’s unlikely that I’m going to be losing my job to robots just yet!
Richard Riley, Secretary of Education (United States), said, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist…using technologies that haven’t yet been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet”. This statement pretty much sums it all up.
So while the future is uncertain and remains a mystery, 21st century learning has to be such that it equips our children with the skills to enter unchartered territory and take on whatever that comes their way.
While 21st century learning is a broad and overarching concept, there are some specific skills that are necessary for our children to be employable in the future. For starters, let’s look at the 4 C’s or the 4 Super Skills of 21st century learning – Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication.
Collaboration is an important skill for our children’s future.
An Oxford study done in 2015 affirms that creative jobs have stood the test of time and are likely to be more resistant to automation. This does not necessarily mean that that only artists and musicians are likely to keep their jobs in future. What it really means is that contrary to how mundane, repetitive and task-based jobs will be displaced by cheaper means (computers) and AI, creative thinking will remain a valued skill.
Employees who demonstrate the ability to think and act creatively will stand out from others. Creativity is an important aspect of 21st century learning.
In the past, working hard, remembering things well and doing your job well might have been the recipe for success in the office. Not anymore! There will soon be a greater need for you to show how you solve problems creatively and apply new technologies to develop products. Machines cannot automate your creativity.
But creativity is innate! What if my child isn’t creative? Does this mean the future is bleak for my child?
Before you work yourself into a frenzy, you’d be glad to know that experts currently believe that creativity is more of a skill that you can cultivate, than an innate gift. Yes, you read that right – you can condition your children to be creative!
The even better news is that many parents have already been conditioning creativity in their children. Remember those art and craft sessions? Remember those playgroup sessions? Remember those pretend-play games? Well, these are all valuable contributions to grooming a creative child.
If you want to learn more about developing creativity in your little ones, there is a multitude of books and articles that you can refer to. For example, Christine Carpenter, a writer, mentioned that “you need to foster a creative atmosphere” and you can do so by “making your home a Petri dish for creativity”.
What better place then home for your child to start exploring his creativity?
Home is a safe haven for children. Encourage and allow your children to explore and make mistakes within the safe confines of home. Allow them the opportunity to fail and learn that failure isn’t all that bad. The fear of failure is a kiss of death for creativity and you don’t want that happening to your kids!
So keep with the times and celebrate innovation and creativity in your home. 21st century learning begins at home! Create a platform for your children to express themselves through art and music. Be proud to display their creative expression of science, nature and technology!
2. Critical Thinking
As parents, not to mention Singaporean parents, we often fall into the trap of preparing our children to ace their examinations. We spend so much time teaching our children how to get the right answers for examination questions that we dismiss them when they try to think out of the box, or question the answers and methods that we teach them.
What are we missing out here? Well, 21st century learning isn’t so much about getting the right answer to questions but rather, teaching our children how to ask questions. A large part of solving problems has got to do with asking the right questions. This in turn sets the foundation for critical thinking.
And why is critical thinking so important? Because, as billionaire Shark Tank investor, Mark Cuban, said during a Bloomberg interview, “the automation of automation is coming”. Meaning, the day is nearing when skills such as computer programming and engineering will lose the importance that they presently have.
The automation of automation is fast approaching.
When that happens, only employees with unique and individual perspectives on business and technology will be valued. And for them to have such perspectives, they need critical thinking. Again, we can groom our children to be critical thinkers.
We must encourage them to look beyond their comfort zone and to be open-minded, to look at things from multiple perspectives and approach problems from multiple angles. Our children must understand that there is always more than one way to solve a problem. As parents, we must ensure that we provide sound, logical and responsible answers to our children’s questions – regardless of how often they repeat those questions.
To help kids think better, The Foundation for Critical Thinking has developed a standard of 5 qualities:
- be accurate
- be clear
- be relevant
- be logical
- be fair
If you have school-going children, I’m sure you would have heard of the term collaborative learning and how the Ministry of Education (MOE) is currently placing great emphasis on using of this method in the classrooms. Collaborative learning is a big part of 21st century learning.
Through such learning, children learn important social skills such as empathy and cooperation. These are of great importance for their future success for in the future, our children will work in teams made up of people of different countries, cultures, language and belief systems.
This is why it’s so important for us to cultivate good interpersonal skills in our children. They do learn some of it in school and we must reinforce it at home. Here are two simple ways that we can do so:
- Acknowledge and support children when they work well together
- Talk about stepping into someone else’s shoes to teach empathy
Empathy and cooperative spirit are key to effective team collaboration and we should foster these qualities in our kids.
Kids must learn to work together.
Parents don’t like screen time but gone is the generation where we can raise children to write letters to their pen-pals. In fact, millennial children don’t even know what pen-pals are! The fact is that in this globalised technological era, digital communication has taken over the world by storm.
As such, an important aspect of 21st century learning is teaching our children digital communication – the ability to communicate and collaborate with others using digital technologies and media.
Children are getting their hands on gadgets and smartphones from as young as 5 or 6 years old. Of course, familiarising themselves with technology goes a long way in their 21st century learning and equips them with necessary skills. However, there are of course many risks such as addiction, overexposure and the endless dangers and threats that lurk in the cyber world.
Thus, along with teaching children practical skills like typing, word processing, graphic designing, presentation abilities, digital note taking and mind-mapping tools, 21st century learning also encompasses learning how to handle the internet effectively. This includes the following:
- understanding the nuances of search
- discerning good content from bad
- understanding the importance of e-safety
So as parents, we now have the added responsibility of teaching our children how to use technology responsibly. In addition, we must teach our children how to protect themselves from cyber-bullying.
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore