The Future is Here: Take a look…

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.” Rabindranath Tagore 


The Institute for the Future (IFTF) for the University of Phoenix Research Institute has created a document called Future Work Skills 2020.  In it, the IFTF has laid out what it calls The Six Drivers of Change.  These are significant disruptive shifts in our current way of life that are likely to contribute to shaping the future.

These are the six most important changes:

  1. Extreme longevity: Increasing global lifespans will change the nature of careers and learning.
  2. Rise of Smart Machines and Systems: As machines replace and augment humans, we must ask ourselves, ‘What are humans uniquely good at?’.
  3. Computational World: Every object, every interaction, everything we come into contact with will be converted into data.
  4. New Media Ecology: New multimedia technologies are creating a new vernacular, a new language for communication that requires new media literacies beyond text.
  5. Superstructed Organizations:  New fields such as gamification, neuroscience and happiness psychology are driving the creation of a new generation of organizational concepts and work skills.
  6. Globally Connected World: Increased global interconnectivity puts diversity and adaptability at the centre of organizational operations.

The IFTF has extrapolated from these changes to define the ten skills needed for the future workforce.

  1. Sense-making: As smart machines take over rote, routine manufacturing and service jobs, there will be an increasing demand for higher level thinking skills that machines cannot provide.
  2. Social Intelligence: Being able to quickly assess the emotions of those around them and adapt accordingly is something machines cannot do and therefore a skill necessary for humans in the future.
  3. Novel & Adaptive Thinking: Job opportunities are declining in middle-skill white-collar and blue-collar jobs due to the automation of routine work and global offshoring.  Job opportunities are increasingly concentrated in high-skill, high-wage professional, technical and management occupations and low-skill, low-wage service industry jobs.  Both ends of the spectrum require the ability to respond to unique, unexpected circumstances.
  4.  Cross-Cultural Competency: In an increasingly globally connected world, being able to build relationships and communicate shared goals and priorities that transcend differences will become essential.
  5. Computational Thinking: Being able to make sense of exponentially increasing streams of data using statistical analysis and quantitative reasoning skills will replace the former requirement for basic computer skills with applications such as Microsoft Office.
  6. New-Media Literacy: As user-generated media such as videos, blogs and podcasts have come to dominate our social lives, workers will need sophisticated presentation skills to use these tools to engage and persuade their audiences.
  7. Transdisciplinarity: While throughout the 20th century ever-greater specialization was encouraged, the next century will require transdisciplinary approaches, requiring workers to speak the language of multiple disciplines.
  8. Design Mindset: Workers will increasingly be able to design their work environment.  Workers of the future will need to become adept at adjusting their work environments to enhance their ability to accomplish their assignments.
  9. Cognitive Load Management: Being able to effectively filter and focus on what is important in a world rich in information streams in many format and on many devices will require workers to become adept at using tools to deal with this information onslaught.
  10. Virtual Collaboration: Workers of the future will develop the ability to remain engaged, work productively and demonstrate presence as members of virtual teams.

These lists of  changes and resulting need for skills have blown my mind!  I feel like the Institute for the Future, really nailed this!  And, hello?!!? I want to work for the Institute for the Future!  How cool is that organization?

But really, as a teacher, I do work for an institute of the future.  Who else is so uniquely placed to develop these skills in our future workforce?  I think this document should be required reading for all teachers and should come to inform a new wave of curriculum updates.

I also think all schools should change their names:  School X: Institute for the Future.

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