Traditionally, the general consensus has been to get as much formal education as you can early in life, and then reap the rewards for the rest of your career. However, this is no longer enough. With the great number of university graduates today, and the fact that working lives are now longer than ever before, it is necessary for people to be able to acquire new skills throughout their careers.
In recent years, thanks to the Internet, the market has become more flexible for workers looking to learn new skills. Course providers such as Coursera, General Assembly, Pluralsight and Udacity all offer online training provided by industry experts to cover technology skills that matter most to employers. Likewise, massive open online courses (MOOCs) are increasingly offering courses, which help to make their students more employable.
Clearly, technology has a huge role to play in today’s labour market in terms of the creation of new jobs, and the market has adapted by providing a vast array of technology courses. After compulsory education is finished though, it is the responsibility of workers themselves to take up these courses; they should be lifelong learners if they want to compete in today’s job market. Lifelong learning though, is a habit that begins at school. In order to nurture this habit, compulsory education should focus on metacognition – that is, the skill of learning how to learn. For the most part, I see education around the world moving in this direction – developing self-directed learners who are inspired to learn. Although this is important, it’s not the whole story.
We also need to teach our students digital citizenship in order to use technology appropriately and responsibly. This is not as simple as it may sound. We live in a world today of information obesity, where fragmented attention is the norm. Social media in particular, is responsible for a great number of smartphone addicts! Dr Cal Newport’s Ted Talk, “Quit Social Media” sums this up well:
It is all well and good having a vast array of online courses available, but these courses need to occupy the student’s focus if they are to be successful. Engagement is the name of the game, and this is increasingly difficult on digital platforms. As part of any digital citizenship curriculum therefore, we need to look at how we can help students to focus on what really matters. This is now crucial for most people, as they will be required to acquire new skills throughout their careers.