What if….the future of K-12 education

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development launched the project The Future of Education and Skills in 2030. It explored how we are to prepare students for jobs that have not even been created yet.

What skills will they need in 2030?

The answer, educational institutions will need to develop curiosity, imagination, resilience, and self-regulation in students. Students will need to respect and appreciate the ideas, perspectives and values of each other. They will need to problem solve and cope with failure while learning from it. They will be looking for more than a good job with high pay, but will care more about how their actions impact the well-being of others, including their families, community, and planet. So what does K-12 education look like in 2030, a time where the cyber and physical worlds will become seemless?

What if you had a school system where students began learning how to write computer code that directed robots or virtual tasks to be completed (coding) in early elementary school? They then began applying and expanding what they learned by competing in Lego League, F.I.R.S.T. Robotics, or solving local problems through programs similar to the SOAR program led by Matt Zimmer in Dollar Bay.

What if data science was heavirly infused into mathematics curriculum? Students learned software to analyze data and then make decisions to solve problems based on patterns and results they we able to interpret. Students could begin extracting knowledge and insights from both structured and unstructured data.

What if all students engaged in visual and performing arts courses? Students were taught to express themselves in abstract ways, developing their creativity and non-verbal communication skills. They would develop their motor skills and emotional intelligence (control/expression of ones emotions and empathy for others).

What if K-12 schools learned from higher education and began creating large endowments fueled by their alumni? Funds would be used for schools to stay current in technological advances, professional development for teachers to keep their knowledge updated, and support other unique programs to develop needed skills in students.

What if each K-12 school created a virtual alumni network like Michigan Tech’s FutureU?

A cross between LinkedIn and Facebook, in this closed virtual community students and alumni would post their profiles. Students could browse the alumni and their careers/career paths, asking questions of alumni as they explore the wide variety of career options like: logger, business owner, computer programmer, engineer, financial analyst, nurse, teacher, and so many more!

What if careers began being associated with skills students are learning starting in middle school or earlier? As students gain competency in each area they would understand where and how that skill could be applied. Each student would develop their own resume explaining how they had acquired and applied these transferrable skills.

What if Intermediate School Districts expanded their Career and Technical Education Programs to include emerging careers in STEM areas? Our CCISD programs championed by George Stockero are a great start. What if we added cyber security, cloud computing, mechatronics, and other emerging technologies?

What if each student graduated from high school with a firm understanding of the transferable skills they had developed and confidence in how to apply them? What if each student had a vision where they wanted to start their career, had created an active alumni support network to help guide them, and developed some defined next steps to get there? What if each student graduated with the hope, confidence, tenacity, resilience, and optimism needed to begin the next leg of their journey?

This is a glimpse of the future of K-12 education and a goal we will reach before 2030 in our community.

Dr. Steve Patchin is Superintendent of Hancock Public Schools. Programs he has contributed to creating include Mind Trekkers and CareerFEST, helping students explore their talents and associated careers in STEM. His research has focused on increasing development of self-efficacy in individual students.

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