Teaching and empowering our youth for the Innovation Economy
During Part 1 (The driving forces that will shape the Innovation Economy) and Part 2 (The core skills to thrive in the Innovation Economy), we explored the remodeling of the worker that is being driven by intelligent technologies and how this remodeling will require workers in the Innovation Economy to acquire “high concept” and “high touch” skills. Workers will still require a solid foundation of traditional professional skills (associated with the Knowledge economy) but will need to support these knowledge competencies with skills in computational logic, emotional intelligence and technological intelligence. The computer programmer will be required to perfect their “R” directed thinking, heightening their creativity, active listening, understanding of people and the understating of how people and technology co-exist. Workers will be required to apply meaning to their work beyond the current process of their job.
Learning Experiences and Opportunities
“We should be talking more about learning than about education. Education is about
processes and top-down transmission of knowledge. Learning is a much wider concept. A lot of learning goes on in non-educational contexts, and today we have a very large and increasing number of learning opportunities.”
Cristóbal Cobo, Director, Center for Research, Ceibal Foundation (Uruguay) and Research Associate, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford (UK)
Kids Hack Labs is constantly rethinking how we should be teaching and preparing children for the Innovation Economy. The core teaching experiences to establish and nurture “R” directed thinking are:
Child centric learning
Youth require teaching that emphasizes both technical and human skills and most importantly how to operate and think seamlessly across both skill sets. This is the sweet spot highlighted by Daniel Pink. He calls this the “Whole Mind”. Teaching in a manner that stimulates both Left (analysis, sequenced logic) and Right brain (creativity) thinking to create, or solve a problem will train children to approach challenges with dynamic thinking. Research shows that the three teaching experiences explored below create an impactful learning environment.
Experiential learning is teaching through hands-on experiences. Children learn by doing with less emphasis on learning by listening. There is a strong emphasis on reflection and working through a challenge independently while noting your findings. The Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning found that “complex reasoning, critical thinking, creativity and socioemotional intelligence” were best acquired in an experiential learning environment. These four skills are key to the worker in the Innovation Economy.
Kids Hack Labs uses project-based and team-based learning to engage children. Many see project-based learning as a technique for older children but it is effective for children entering Kindergarten. Hands on experiences, supported by question based interaction by a coach, meaningful follow up and revisiting of learning goals is highly effective. The younger a child is when they encounter experiential learning, the better they will be wired to learn and thrive in these environments. The ability to learn this way in itself is a valuable life long asset; your child will be wired to learn through everyday experiences.
Kids Hack Labs encourages “effortful” learning. This style of learning has been proven by Washington University to “form new connections” in the brain more easily. Our coaches facilitate students to work through problems and challenges as opposed to direct instruction. We facilitate growth when we guide a student through debugging their code or when we require a student to propose an approach, supported by research if required. Even our beginner students are challenged through our “type what you see” coding. The typing of existing code creates a connection between the line of code typed and an instant response through visual reinforcement. When executing a draw function, the child can instantly visualize its outcome; therefore, creating connections in the brain that can be recalled later when faced with a similar challenge.
Child centric learning
Child centric learning is learning that is delivered and measured at the level of the individual child. The goal of child centric learning is to both deliver and measure learning at the level of the child; teaching to the child's needs and measuring progress by the milestones achieved by that child. This includes accommodating different learning styles, introducing numerous mimi challenges and planning for an individual child’s learning trajectory. To ensure measurement at a higher level, the achievement of learning milestones can be aligned across groups of children or segments of society.
Kids Hack Labs currently directs and measures learning of individual students using a combination of tools in the Hatch Studio along with observations recorded on each student by our coaches during class, as well as during project marking and review. For example, “variables” is a key concept in coding. Those students identified with limited exposure to variables will be guided to simpler projects, as well as provided with additional scaffolding such as type what you see coding. Those with more experience will work on the same concept but with heightened hands-on challenges and limited scaffolding. A child’s progress and portfolio lives with the child, it is not scrapped year to year. When a child proceeds in levels and moves to new coaches, we continue to build on that child's individual journey.
Resilient learning is delivered through the learning environment itself; it can be seen as a characteristic of the learning environment. When a child learns by overcoming challenges they become resilient. It hones a child’s attention and awareness. The increased levels of self confidence associated with growing resilience, often build a sense of excitement in the act of seeking out new challenges that go beyond the ones simply assigned. Students with higher levels of resilience often become lifelong learners. A growth mindset, amplified by resilience will empower a child to change, adapt and seek fulfilling opportunities.
Resilience is learned through well planned experiential learning. Challenges related to resilience need to be designed and integrated within experiential learning activities. Instructors also need the tools to introduce challenges at an individual learner level to accommodate a learner’s individual path. Directing a child to debug their own code or requesting they look up the syntax for a line of code as opposed to pointing out errors or directly telling them how to type the syntax are simple but great challenges. At Kids Hack Labs we also facilitate resilience through encouraging students to become comfortable with uncertainty, trusting their gut on their chosen solution to a problem and learning as they go. We create an environment where children are comfortable with mistakes but where they take the time to reverse engineer the coding to understand the mistake. We also encourage children to attempt to code a solution using multiple approaches. Resilience is acquired through practice and experience, often over long periods of time.
If we are working toward skill targets for the Innovation Economy, we should not measure success by the number of programmers and engineers that graduate, but by the number of individuals that achieve complex reasoning and high-order cognitive capability milestones across multiple disciplines (i.e. arts, programming, design, legal, etc).
This is the final installment in the series of blogs introducing the Innovation Economy. However, I will continue to share industry research and Kids Hack Labs own progress in preparing for the Innovation Economy. During the three blog posts, we have explored forces shaping the Innovation Economy, the skills to thrive in the Innovation Economy and how to teach the skills of the Innovation Economy. Intelligent technologies and other forces are reducing the value of knowledge, creating room for new ways for the worker to contribute and find meaning. We need to adapt our learning practices to empower our youth to succeed and live meaningful lives.