Teaching Today for 21st Century Skills

It is estimated that over the next 10 years there will be two million unfilled ICT-related jobs globally, correlating with a projected talent gap of 8.2 percent by 2022. The 2014 Cisco Annual Security Report indicates a shortage of more than a million security professionals across the globe in 2014. In light of these projections, collaboration and dedication to meeting the critical demand for high-skill workers through strategic programs and collaborations for current and future generations will be needed.

Wanny Hersey, Principal of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, has specific ideas about how to serve students in light of current and emerging technologies. She and her teachers have worked and thought hard to create an educational culture that prepares students for success in a world that will look quite different than it currently does. Students are learning critical skills that span how to be creative in problem solving, how to work together and how to understand the value of the learning process. Through project based learning, not only are students learning practical skills, but they are learning what questions to ask so they can create things that are solving the problems of the future.

An emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) and creative skills will need to be central to curricula if we hope to fill critical talent shortages. Innovative, personalized approaches to education, such as the idea introduced at the Bullis School of “Focused Learning Goals” for every K-8 student based on each student’s unique needs, will be critical. As Wanny says, “Children learn at different rates.” They may also display mastery of a topic in different ways, so assessment of students must become individualized as well.

To help students feel comfortable with technology, Bullis has developed technology-focused Project Based Learning Units for each grade level, as well as design projects that require an age-appropriate level of technology proficiency. Eighth-graders also participate in longer projects each year that focus on STEAM subjects. The students must be able to explain their projects to a group and answer questions as well. As teacher Jessica Lura notes, “If you can’t explain it, you didn’t learn it.” This is one of the innovative methods Bullis uses to ensure immersion and mastery of a topic, and one that I hope other educational institutions will adopt soon.

STEAM education is not merely for students interested in pursuing careers in these fields. All jobs will be impacted by these changes, even non-high tech roles, regardless of industry. Robotics, automation, Big Data, analytics and security (both physical and cyber security) will become part of all of our daily lives. Workers of all stripes will need to be trained, skilled and experienced with technology.

Bullis Charter School provides a model of the kinds of individualized, whole-child learning approaches that will equip students with the skills our connected world requires. Watch the video below of my conversations with Wanny and Jessica and share your ideas on transforming the educational process to better prepare the workforce of tomorrow.

Bullis Charter School (BCS) is a free public charter school authorized by the Santa Clara County Board of Education (SCCBOE) and subject to the fiscal and programmatic oversight of the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE).