When HMH invited me to host the Shaping the FutureTM podcast series, I just couldn’t resist. I get to talk with leading thinkers and practitioners across a range of perspectives about questions I care about. What a great opportunity for me to learn and to share that learning with (hopefully) a lot of curious listeners.
One of the courses I teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Education is called “Innovation by Design.” In the class, students leverage research and evidence to generate and iterate on new approaches to tackling educational problems of their own choosing. Last year’s projects addressed adolescent mental health, the attainment gap for traditionally underserved students, job skill development for adults, and parent support of early literacy acquisition, among many others. An important source of innovation inspiration comes from looking at analogous settings. Combining depth of knowledge about their problem area with breadth of exploration outside of their domain helps spark novel possibilities for students. The process of seeking and making connections is exciting and enlightening, and it’s a big part of what we do in this podcast series. We know a lot about K–12 education. What insights about the future come from looking in other spaces?
To open up our thinking about the future of school learning, for instance, we looked at emerging models of workplace learning. Employers don’t want narrowly trained workers; they want employees who can grow with changing technology, communicate with others, and collaborate to solve complex problems. One of our guests called these characteristics “eternal skills.” They were valuable before the 21st century, and they will continue to be valuable. How are workplaces developing those capacities, and can schools learn anything from those innovations? Spoiler alert: we uncovered some useful insights for teacher learning.
To explore the future of civics education in a polarized and media-saturated world, we turned to the Girl Scouts. Yes, the Girl Scouts. The organization starts developing the skills for community engagement early on, beginning with being a good neighbor. When children are active members of their community, they see needs and opportunities. Girl Scouts encourages kids to address those local issues—to work with the system to enact change, or at least try to. These early, tangible experiences set the stage for ongoing civic engagement. To help us consider what K–12 education might learn from the Girl Scouts, we included iCivics, a nonprofit founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, in the conversation. Maybe students should do more than a semester of civics in middle or high school?
I come away inspired and hopeful from each podcast conversation. Our guests are passionate and knowledgeable, and their work is both important and urgent. Although the topics are complex, we try to identify practical steps that people can take now in their own schools and educational settings to get things rolling. Myself? I just want to dive in and join their efforts.
I can’t wait for the episodes we have yet to record! There is much more to learn. I hope you will join us on these irresistible Shaping the Future journeys.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.
Listen to episode one: Shaping the Future: The Evolving Workforce
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