Preparing Our Kids For The Future

As a parent, I worry about preparing my children for the future.  What opportunities will be available to them and what skills will they need to take advantage of them?  I have decided that I need to change my perspective. We should be excited about what future careers will look like for our kids because they are going to be more interesting, fulfilling, and capitalize on what makes us uniquely human.  As automation increases and eliminates many jobs, we will be forced to strive to reach our full-potential as human beings. Let’s prepare our kids for that exciting future.

According to Tim Rayner, it’s best to think about what computers won’t be able to do (or won’t be able to do for a very long time) to figure out what skills kids will need in the future to be successful.

Emotional Intelligence

It will be a long time before computers make us feel cared for or gain our trust.  Maybe a computer could replace our doctor to use complex calculations to make a diagnosis, but would you trust the results?  If you received a scary diagnosis, would you want a computer helping you through treatment or a human doctor that would empathize with your concerns?

Jobs that require empathy or an ability to gain the trust of another human won’t be going anywhere for a long time.  One could even say these jobs will increase as humans work with computers to provide what they cannot. Get your kids involved in activities that teach them how to care for and empathize with others.

Can computers bring a team of people together to accomplish something great?  Leadership and the ability to work with others will still be highly valued in the future.  Sign your child up for a team that has to work together to accomplish something. I’m not just talking about athletic teams.  Find a robotics, coding, or engineering program for kids where they can work together to create something or participate in a competition.  One amazing example that combines all 3 is the FIRST organization (https://www.firstinspires.org/).

Creativity

Computers can use algorithms to create an original painting or drawing. “But, a machine can’t create art because art involves a set of uniquely human responses to life and the world. This is what makes art, art.” (Tim Rayner)

Combining our creative and artistic abilities with our ability to empathize with others allows us to innovate and create things other humans will find useful and improve their lives.  Jobs that require you to create and innovate will be in abundance in the future. More reason for schools to not cut their music and art programs, but to increase funding. If your child is interested in music, art, theatre, or other creative activities, encourage it!     

Design Thinking

Using design thinking is a powerful way to solve a problem, invent something new, or start a new business.  According to the d.school at Stanford University (https://dschool.stanford.edu/), design thinking involves the following steps.

  1. Empathise – with your users
  2. Define – your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
  3. Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
  4. Prototype – to start creating solutions
  5. Test – solutions 

If you break those steps down, you can see the advantages humans have over machines in practicing design thinking to innovate and solve problems.  Already mentioned in this article several times, empathy and the ability to connect with others is an essential part of the process. Creativity is also critical throughout the steps to come up with unique solutions and prototypes.  Additionally, the ability to reflect on test results and make changes that consider other humans is still best completed by a human.

Challenge your child to invent something new using the design process or sign them up for a class in entrepreneurship where they learn how to come up with an idea, test it in the market, and then revise.  Or, get them involved in coding to create a new app or video game. Overall, make sure they are learning how to create things from scratch! 

We should spend less time as parents worrying about the future opportunities that will be available for our kids.  Let’s be excited for them and prepare them for opportunities that will be intrinsically motivating, fulfilling, and capitalize on their greatest strengths as human beings. 

Resources

It’s 2038. What kinds of jobs are available? by Tim Rayner

FIRST Robotics Competitions

Stanford University d.school

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About the author: Shawn D. Walk is the owner of Code2Discover, a business dedicated to helping students discover their ability to create and shape the world around them through coding. He has been teaching technology, coding, and 21st century skills for nearly 15 years. He is a certified elementary teacher in PA and has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. He is also a previous owner of an educational technology company that pioneered using Minecraft as an educational tool in the Pittsburgh region. His goal is to help kids learn the skills they need in today’s world, but also help them believe they can be the creators of new technology instead of simply consuming it.
2 comments…
  • Annie March 17, 2020, 5:27 pm

    Great post. Thanks. You have got me thinking.

    Reply
    • Shawn Walk March 18, 2020, 1:00 pm

      Thanks, Annie. I’m glad to hear it was helpful.

      Reply

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