Finding the Uncommon Dots – #1

unknownfutureI love thinking about the future, bumping up against ideas and having conversations about how outlier ideas should or will impact our work in K12 education. As leaders, we need to be spending a good deal of our time looking beyond the immediate reality for “disruptive” ideas, trends and innovations, ideally creating urgency for change within our schools. My colleague, Lynn Fuini-Hetten and I were recently inspired by this video to challenge our staff to do just that – find the “uncommon dots.” To give the idea of “uncommon dots” some context and urgency, we reminded the staff that the incoming Kindergarten class will graduate in 2028.   “What will life be like, and how can we best prepare our children for the world, careers and jobs of 2028?”

A challenge in K12 education is that the majority of us aren’t asking big questions like this one because the answers (or lack of answers) can be a bit frightening. It’s time for us to overcome the fear of disruption, embrace the inevitable and take responsibility for creating the change necessary for our students to navigate this undefined future.

We should start by taking intriguing questions such as the one above and becoming masters of the domain, learning as much as we can about the “uncommon dots” being spoken about by the expert voices. Who are they and what are they saying? How can we take the ideas and generate viable answers to our big questions? Sawyer calls this the “learn” phase of creatively answering significant questions. So this is where I am – learning as much as I can about the “uncommon dot” ideas and figuring out how it informs my practice. Let me share what I recently discovered.

Tanmay Vora and his post Skills for Future Success in a Disruptive World of Work. In the post, Tanmay references a talk/article by Janna Q. AndersonFuture of Work? The Robot Takeover is Already HereDefinitely go read these thought-provoking works. For now, I want to draw you to their ideas on the skills today’s learners should be developing for career success in 2020 (just around the corner and certainly not as far off as 2028):

Janna and a Pew/Elon University study from 2012 on what she calls Generation AO. They should be honing their ability to:

  • concentrate, to focus deeply.
  • distinguish between the “noise” and the message in the ever-growing sea of information.
  • carry out public problem solving through cooperative work.
  • search effectively for information, discerning the quality and veracity of the information, and communicating findings well.
  • bring together details from many sources – to synthesize.
  • be futures-minded through formal education in the practices of horizon-scanning, trends analysis and strategic foresight. (This skill is the leadership focus of this post.)

To Janna’s list, Tanmay adds:

  • The ability to learn constantly in a self-directed mode.
  • Social Intelligence and the ability to connect with people beyond geographical barriers virtually in a deep/meaningful way and collaborate.
  • Adaptive mindset to evolve the thinking and learning to keep pace with the pace of changes around us.
  • Interdisciplinary thinking – He talks more about this here.
  • Critical thinking

After reading both lists, each of us should be asking the question How are we doing? within the unique context of our own schools and districts. What specific example/evidences can we provide? More broadly, how are these reflected in our We believe… statements? If we’re not doing so well, how do we change that? Can you add other skills/abilities our students should be developing that do not appear on either list?

One last related question about us adults: If we expect our students to have these skills, shouldn’t we – teachers and leaders – be modeling these for our students and communities? Do we? How do we?

As I’m still in the “learning phase” and haven’t had enough “incubation” time with these ideas, I don’t have many answers to share. I only intend to provoke with these questions and ideas which I will think about and share in future posts.

How do the ideas about skills for the future provoke your thinking as a leader? How might you contribute to a deeper conversation around these ideas on social media and in your school or district?



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