Just a few days ago, I saw on Twitter a link to an interesting post: Ten skills every student should learn. Based on a survey asking readers to nominate the most important skill that they felt students should learn before finishing school, ten important skills were identified and then listed in no specific order.
But the idea behind this survey set me thinking.
While I agree with some of the skills highlighted in this post, I guess, over time, I’ve developed my own conviction about what students should learn prior to completing their school years, skills which would ensure that they are well rounded citizens of the world. It goes without saying that my current thinking has been deeply influenced by the recent learning journey on which I’ve been travelling for the last year and a half.
So ….. here are the ten skills that I think every student should learn before they leave our schools.
- Reading: It goes without saying that print literacy is a fundamental, leading skill that students need to learn prior to the end of their school days. Without the ability to read, students are locked out of opportunities to experience worlds which they may never get to experience in any other way: to be able to traverse different cultures, people and situations via the written word is not only eye-opening, but is educational. Yet reading studies which highlight the lack of literacy of a large chunk of our country’s population are frightening. Why and how can we improve this outcome?
- Writing: Being able to communicate thoughts in writing is essential. The ability to write legibly – and yes, I am indeed referring to pen and paper skills otherwise known as handwriting – as well as the ability to type, not the two finger variety, but the touch typing variety, are basic skills to be mastered by todays’ students. Writing, however, actually entails far more than just the mechanical production of words on paper. Writing entails being able to communicate ideas in print; mastering sentence structure and inherent grammatical rules. Reading and writing is in fact the flip side of the same coin. They feed off each other. The more one reads, the better one writes. The more one writes the more one craves to read the words of others.
- Thinking: How often in our day to day teaching do we confront our students with the challenge of thinking logically? Come to think of it – do we? How many essays or exam questions have you read which make no sense because the framework on which they are based lacks logical presentation based on logical thought. Learning how to brainstorm and to then set thoughts in a logical order is often left to the ‘English’ teacher. But doesn’t this skill cut across all areas of the curriculum?
- Computer Literacy: There’s an assumption out there that our digital natives know everything there is to know about computers and technology, but do they? Yes – I too have looked on in awe watching my students and children pick up a remote and discover the menu items that totally eluded me when I had my turn playing. But, do all students intuitively know the ins and outs of the computer, various essential tools and programs as well as file management? I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve shown children how and where to save their valued work before closing down the computer. Learning how to drive a car is not the answer to knowing the basics of getting it moving when something goes wrong. Knowing how to use a computer does not ensure knowing how to solve basics when things go wrong. Learning the importance of ‘backing up’ for example shouldn’t be a hard lesson learned when all files are deleted! Let’s identify basic computer literacy and be sure that not just the tech savvy kids know the answers.
- Information Literacy: Being able to fluently use technology is different to knowing how to manipulate the technology to locate information sought. In other words, using Google as a search engine is common practice. But understanding and learning how to use Google as a search tool needs to be taught in our schools. Being able to evaluate hits returned, to weigh up both their relevancy and reliability, require critical thinking skills that also must be taught. As I mentioned in a previous post on NovaNews, Google can’t replace learning. Assuming that our Digital Natives know it all, is incorrect. Just recently the website Boing Boing blogged on this very topic: “Digital Natives” need help understanding search.
- Participation: Educational models of the past were of the ‘I teach ….. You learn’ format. Being a passive learner vs an active learner speaks for itself. Learning the theory of driving does not ensure skills are learned and internalized. This example extends over virtually all that we learn in school and in life. Actively participating in the learning process ensures that learning occurs. School curriculum needs to ensure that our students are active partners in the learning game.
- Inspiration: Educators need to light the spark within students, to inspire them to want to learn, to create within them an insatiable craving to learn. If we can’t, who will? Instilling a thirst for knowledge, a topic I alluded to in a recent post: Passion vs Process, is one of the most powerful gifts that teachers can give their students.
- Lifelong learning: Schools must guide students in how to learn. Students need the scaffolding with which to ensure that well after their school days conclude they will be independent lifelong learners. Knowing how to define the task at hand, to locate information, to select resources, to organize thoughts and notes, to present their ideas and at the end to evaluate the completed task are skills that teacher librarians have taught and encouraged for years. A host of resources abound. The State Library of Victoria’s ‘Ergo’ is just one of the many excellent resources which can be implemented into the school curriculum.
- Digital Citizenship: Students today need to be aware of their digital presence, to know how it is created and how they can proactively manage their digital footprint. They need to be cybersmart digital citizens, equally aware of the dangers and the values of being a digital citizen. Learning how to present oneself in the cyberworld is equivalent to learning how to present oneself in the real world. Looking ‘good’ in both worlds is important and defines the citizen we become.
- Social Harmony: Learning how to communicate with each other and to respect the values of individuals and communities is perhaps one of the most fundamental lessons to be learned. Learning how to live in social harmony with others so we can, together, build a better world by working as part of a team to produce and advance our knowledge and our endeavours are the fundamental building blocks we should be giving our students.
Beg to differ with me? Please use my thoughts as a basis for further discussion!