skills of the future

How do we prepare our kids for the digital future?



“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”.

Currently I’m getting called on to be on numerous taskforces, committees, panels and just generally to give my two cents on what I know. A lot of the purposes of these groups is centred around digital futures.

The Queensland Government is currently undertaking extensive consultation with parents, schools, unions and schooling sectors to map out the future of education and create Queensland’s first Education Accord and with this comes consideration to a digital future.

I’ve done the diligent thing and responded (you can contribute here too), but I thought it could be worth sharing publically some of my thoughts on the matter, as they seem to be the sorts of things I find myself repeating over and over on the multiple task forces, committees and panels I am on, and by documenting my thoughts I have a useful reference point.

Before you start reading it is worth noting that I have amended the questions below which are similar to those posed on the actual Queensland Education Accord to say ‘Australia’ instead of just ‘Queensland’, as I travel around Australia enough to know these questions are not only worthy of posing in Queensland.

They are also questions worthy of posing to the entire country. Each question could be answered with a veritable essay, but I’ve tried to keep it succinct and to the point. Here goes…

1. How do we ensure that our future kids have access to an affordable, high-quality education, regardless of their circumstances? In particular, how do we ensure young people in rural and remote locations have access to world-class educational opportunities that build on the strengths and potential of our regions?

We need to ensure that we have good internet access in rural and remote locations and that we provide training to the influencers of children on how to capitalise on the use of the internet. There is an enormous opportunity for rural and remote kids to be gaining skills online from other locations where it is not available in their region, and also to be engaging in work experience, internships, traineeships and apprenticeships online. Currently however, this is not possible. Last I checked, kids were ineligible to do apprenticeships and traineeships online, as the requirement is that they are supervised and do the training IN PERSON which is crazy, when the majority of my 30 staff are virtual workers. I totally get that with some workplaces you can’t provide the necessary training virtually, but in some scenarios you can, which opens up a world of possibilities.

I don’t feel we are preparing our kids for the virtual workplace and the possibilities of virtual collaboration which is the reality for many, and increasingly so. The legislation which says kids cannot engage in a traineeship or apprenticeship virtually should be changed, and education around the opportunity of working virtually for people in other regions, states and even internationally presented as a means to earn an income – main or supplementary, and or develop their own businesses.
I’d also like the opportunity to take a mobile library bus on a roadshow around various locations and introduce rural and remote kids to the world of technology in a big way. I have a full plan on this I’d love to share.

2. What qualities would you hope young Australians will gain from their school education?

Creativity. Problem solving. Innovation. Resilience. Social conscience. Digital savviness. Empathy. Adaptive. Independent. Self-reliant. Data analysis. Story tellers. Collaborative. Multi-discplinary. Cooperative. Initiative.

3. How do we ensure that schools equip students with the skills, knowledge, aptitudes and values they need to strengthen our economy and participate in a globalised 21st century world?

We need to keep the influencers of the school system and the leaders of the schools in touch with what is happening in a rapidly changing world. As I said in my opening line, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”. We need to teach entrepreneurialism, computational thinking, coding and other digital skills and awareness as there is a massive skills shortage in this area. We need to teach our kids to be the creators of new technologies and not just the consumers.

4. How do we assure and improve the quality of teaching and learning in our schools? How do we attract, retain and develop the very best teachers and school leaders?

Make sure they are valued, heard, paid well, given professional development opportunities, celebrated, praised. And often. Also bring in innovators & industry leaders where possible for the benefit of the kids and the teachers and school leaders. Many schools I talk to want to do this but don’t know how to connect or bring them in. Can we facilitate this better?

5. How do we support young Australian’s in making a successful transition from home or early childhood education and care to school, and from school to further education, training and employment?

I think this is already pretty good. Communication is key. In a digital format would be best for me. Or an app. With push notifications. Not more bloody paper!

6. How can we develop greater engagement and partnerships between schools and their communities (including parents and carers, other education and training providers, local government and community organisations, businesses and industry)?

Create user generated portals and harness social media. Get people posting what they can offer and others to post their needs. Match these up.

What are your thoughts on the questions posed above? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below. And if you’re really keen, Complete the online questionnaire and contribute to the development of the Queensland Education Accord