When most of us were deciding what to major in at college, the word Google was not a verb. It wasn’t anywhere close to being conceived at all. Neither was Wikipedia or the iPhone or YouTube. We made decisions about our future employment based on what we knew existed at the time. We would become educators, journalists, lawyers, marketing reps, engineers.
Fast forward a couple of decades (or more) and we see that the career landscape has changed so drastically that jobs need new definitions. Social media strategist, app developer, mobile web engineer?
Some of us could ask ourselves if we would have embarked upon our current careers had we predicted how the Internet would revolutionize every part of our lives? It’s hard to say, but when it comes to preparing our kids for what’s ahead, Cathy Davidson has a few ideas. The author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking), who’s also a professor at Duke University, believes that, in light of the fact that “65 percent of today’s grade-school kids may end up doing work that hasn’t been invented yet,” we should cast aside our fear of technology, and prepare our school-aged kids with important skills, both in technical ways and other less tangible ways.
“We are right on time to give up techno-phobia and to tackle the problems and opportunities of the digital world with good sense, pragmatics, realism, and purpose,” Davidson said. “Once we absorb the realization that we’ve already changed, and that we’re actually doing pretty well despite major realignments in our lives, then we can think about how we want to take this amazing new tool [the Internet] and use it in a way that better serves our lives. It’s time to survey our lives and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how we can make real and practical improvements in our schools, our workplace, our every day lives.”
Davidson offers three can-do suggestions for parents:
- EXPERIMENT WITH SCRATCH. It’s a brilliant and fun multimedia programming language that allows inventive media mixing almost immediately, without any background. It is creative and fun. Even if your child has no interest in being a programmer when they grow up, familiarity with the building blocks of a programming language will give them some skills and expertise at producing the kind of content they are already consuming. [See "5 Tools to Introduce Programming to Kids."]
- EMBARK ON A MEANINGFUL PROJECT.Help your child (at any age, really) by being willing to help out—but emphatically not to lead or rescue—in an extended, risky project that has real impact in the child’s community—school, neighborhood, church, synagogue, community center. But stay out of the way. Let the kids shape the project. Kids should find a project that will probably not succeed in all the ways they hope. Dreaming big, taking risks, and scaling back if and when you have to are fantastic skills. These skills are hardly ever taught in the school room which seems to be organized (as is much American society these days) as if some litigious personal injury lawyer is there ready to pounce at any moment. Continue reading