Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Changing Times - What's True Now Has Been True Before

Our students face a world far different than the one we grew up in.

That's the conventional wisdom.  On the one hand it's true.  Technology change.  Globalization.  Social media.  Access to information.  Access anytime, anywhere.   

But look at the changes that were faced in the past four decades.  Computers. Cable television. The end of the Cold War. The rise of Japan and then China. The interstate highway system.

There is no doubt that the world we are heading into is different than the world that we are leaving behind.  But that has always been the case.

My father lived in a small town in Oklahoma and rode his horse to school.  His graduating class had 15 students in it. (H.K. Matthews - proud graduate of Fairland High School in Fairland, Oklahoma.)

The world is different now than it was when I was growing up.  My world was different than the world my father grew up in.  His world was different than the world his parents grew up in. (His mother entered the Oklahoma territory in a covered wagon.)

The world will be different next year and the year after that and the year after that.

What we know now is that the world will change.  Back in 1947 there was probably not the same sense that the world was going to change so dramatically.  But it did.  Now we take it for granted.

But those who have been successful learned many of the skills that those who will be successful are going to need to learn.

In some ways the challenges are the same for the students in my school district as they were for the 15 graduating seniors of the class of 1947.

Are they prepared?

How can we (a school) prepare them?

We hear a lot about 21st century skills?  But perhaps, the 21st century skills, are really just the skills that successful people have been developing throughout history.

  • The ability to communicate
  • The ability to adapt
  • The ability to use technology
  • The ability to develop relationships
  • The ability to compute
  • The ability to think
  • The ability to understand
  • The ability to see (vision)
The question I wrestle with is the question that others have wrestled with throughout history - How will the students in 2011 be prepared for the world that is to come?  How can I help them learn the skills that they will need to succeed?

What has been true is still true - those who will be successful learn to manage in changing times.