Friday, 5 February 2016

Preparing for Employability

Employability for our students has always been the ultimate goal, but lately there has been a lot more talk about it - which in my opinion is good. If you don't talk about your goals, there is a chance it will become lost on the journey. It has to be said though, when it comes to digital technology and employability, there's a lot to talk about; over 180 pages going by Jisc's Technology for Employability report.

And for those of us who don't have many, many hours of spare time they've also provided:
There really is a lot to talk about.

The trouble is, I'm finding it hard to pick a point of focus. I attended most of the presentation live and revisited the slides today. I've looked through the Summary and checked a few case studies and, frankly, I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed.

So I've chosen two points to put above all else (which I admit are partly chosen out of desperation to have boiled all this down to something I can work with) mostly because they resonate with me.
  1. We aren't just looking at employability. We're looking at lifelong employability.
  2. We should be developing a connected curricular which actively develops independence, responsibility, self reliance and maturity in our students.
Lifelong is an important qualifier here. I think we have all heard of Shift Happens by now and the core tenet of that holds true - we don't know what the world will look like in 2, 5, 10, 20+ years time. How can we make sure our students aren't just employable at the point they leave us, but employable forever?

The answer (and I don't pretend it's mine) is by ensuring they are adaptable. That they can evolve and grow continuously. Give students the self knowledge to take charge of their own development, and give them the tools and motivation to learn whatever they want to, or even things they don't want to when they need to.

Did you just think: but if we do that then why would we need schools, teachers, an education system? It's ok, you can tell me if you did, and you wouldn't be the only one. It's what a lot of people are thinking.

But this is my blog, so I'm going to say that's the wrong thought. Illustrative story time:

I overheard two young people talking about a teacher they were dissatisfied with. One opined that he was a terrible teacher because they always found everything difficult. He should make it easy they said and one of them had clearly raised this with him because his response (and I suspect this conversation was edited to make him look bad) was that he wouldn't be taking the exam. The girl then went on to say that if she failed, it would be all his fault because he hasn't made it easy for her.
Sadly, they then left the room, so I couldn't follow it up.

To me, that perspective highlights an important point. Teachers are *not* the ones who take the exam, or do the assignment. Yet they are still needed. Teachers are *not* the ones who do the learning and yet they are still needed. Teachers are *not* the ones in charge of a student's lifelong learning and development. No mater how much ownership a student takes, a teacher *will be needed*.

Similarly with online learning. We can give students tools, techniques, independence and understanding. But at the end of the day, they will still need a teacher.

And the best teachers? They aren't the ones teaching from a pack of bought-in lesson plans and activities. They're the ones who take ownership, who know how their activities fit together and what the students should learn at each stage. They know where the student should be and can not only assess for it but reconstruct their teaching if the students aren't quite there yet.

Online learning isn't an add-on you can buy and screw into your teaching if you want it to be successful. It requires work. It requires developing students to become independent, responsible, self-reliant. It requires knowing what stage students should be at when they have completed a session.

It also ties-in beautifully with employability skills so all that reading really is a good idea. Probably. I haven't done it all yet.