Stop programming Robots: how to prepare every student for success in any career.When I was a teenager growing up in the 70's, my father wanted me to get a much better education than the 10th grade education he had to settle for during the Great Depression. To scare me into studying harder, he would tear out pages of the futuristic monthly magazine, Popular Science, and lay them on my bed to show me that computers would someday take over the world, and if I couldn't use a computer, someday I would be replaced by one.
Dear old Dad (God rest his soul) was smarter than I thought back then. His prediction has become a reality; at least, for me it has.
My 30-year career path has taken me from a CTE educator (marketing teacher/ DECA advisor) to a motivational speaker for students, to an author and speaker about students for educators and employers. (I'm actually still a teacher; it's just that my classroom is now a convention center and my students now wear suits rather than t-shirts and sneakers; but I digress) My job is simply to research, create and present information; only now, that information is being delivered in formats that didn't exist a few short years ago.
Technology Has Changed Everything
Streaming video and podcasts have made obsolete the audio cassettes, CDs, and DVD training programs that used to line my basement shelves. The demand to convert my books to e-books for the Kindle and Nook is quickly eclipsing the market for those same books in print. And to save money on costly travel, a growing number of my clients are choosing to meet online rather than in person, opting for a presentation delivered via webinar over one delivered live.
Dad was right. The computer (i.e., technology) has changed everything. This is true in my business, and it's true in yours, as well.
The delivery systems, formats, platforms, and technology-based options available to teachers are unlimited. And when you consider that all of these technologies are continually being updated, redesigned, and reshaped, and that whatever systems and devices you're currently using will likely become obsolete next year, well, it's mind-blowing!
So now that your mind is blown... STOP! Rather than focus on the technology we are using to educate students, let's shift the focus to the students who've been impacted by it. Your schools are filled with digital natives who were booting up computers before they were hopping on bikes. With minds that are playlist-driven, they process information like an iPod skips through songs and other files, seeing no rhyme or reason to keep to any sort of chronological order. Their brains think totally different than those of students of the '50s, '70s, '90s or even those just a decade ago.
This drives more than the way they learn; it has completely reshaped the way they communicate with others. I was reminded of this once again last week.
My wife, Lori, is a strong,. upbeat woman who rarely complains. However, one evening at dinner I could tell something was really bothering her and 1 pressed her until she finally revealed that she was feeling somewhat insignificant in the lives of our adult children (now aged 26 to 31).
Over the previous weeks, Lori had received news from three of the four, sharing important things that had happened in their respective lives. One was a text that contained a photo of our granddaughter's school project. Another text broke the news that our son-in-law had passed the Colorado lawyer's bar exam. Then there was an email my son had sent. stating that his ten-month period of unemployment had ended as he had accepted a great position in a new city.
Lori's feelings of insignificance came from the fact that she was only one of many other people who had also received these important news stories at the exact same time via text and email blasts.
"Would it have been so difficult to send a personal message just to me?" Lori lamented.
Difficult, no. Awkward and counterintuitive? Absolutely.
From the day they took their first breath, our kids have been joined at the hip with the very computers that my dad warned me about as a teenager. 'They are one with technology and they rely on it. to send and receive messages even when they are standing right next to the individual with whom they are communicating. Mind-blowing.
Communication That Is Meaningful
This creates a problem for educators seeking to do more than program robotic automatons with the information necessary to pass a standardized achievement test and move on to the next grade level. The problem is one of human connection.
While technology has made communicating easy, it has done so at. the cost of communication that is meaningful. And for information to be internalized to the point where it is remembered, used and valued, it must be meaningful. In other words, technology makes it easy to disseminate massive amounts of information to the masses, but teaching a kid how to perform on the job and advance in the workplace still requires personal human interaction.
Strong Work Ethic
For the past decade, I've been working closely with business leaders who hire and employ the students you are educating. The loudest rumblings I hear are not from those complaining about a lack of skills; in fact, most employers I talk to believe the emerging workforce has the skills they want. But what they demand--what has become the "non-negotiable" in the employment equation--is to find people who also possess core work ethic values.
Given a choice, today's employers will jump over ten job seekers who boast cutting-edge skills but have a questionable work ethic to hire the one applicant who demonstrates solid core work ethic values but may not be quite as skilled as the others. The way they see it, they can always train an ambitious recruit with hard skills, if needed. What those same employers resent, however, is having to tell that young cohort to pull up his pants, put away that smart phone and get to work on time.
Employers are thirsty for young people who are positive and enthusiastic regardless of what they are asked to do. They're actively recruiting young people who know how to interact with difficult co-workers and please demanding customers. And they're crying out for young professionals who dress, act and communicate like a professional, and will do more than the MDR (minimum daily requirement).
The top career and technical educators get it. Dialedin to the employers that recruit their grads, they understand how important it is to teach beyond hard skills. Towards that goal, they use a three-tiered approach to instill and reinforce core work ethic values in their students.
Three Tiers to Success
1. Introduce--Core values can't possibly reach the heart level if they aren't first introduced at the cerebral level. That's why it's crucial to regularly talk about these values and make them an integral part of daily instruction. Students need to be aware of the importance their future employers place on values such as reliability, initiative and integrity. Using the power of stories based on personal experience--yours and theirs--students are introduced to values they should have learned at home, but many have not.
2. Recognize and Reinforce--The behavior that gets noticed, gets repeated. Bad habits that are left unchecked become part of a person's character. But when an individual is recognized, and perhaps even rewarded, for demonstrating professionalism, respect, dependability, etc., they not only want to repeat that behavior, but others take note and want to do the same.
3. Mentor--Today's students spend hours each day interfacing with technology, but that screen time comes at the cost of not having the meaningful face time they require to develop core values. Great educators know that there is no technological substitute for getting to know a student and helping sculpt vital character values. When you think back on the best teachers you had in life, you can't help but remember how they helped to mentor you and shape your work ethic.
Today's students are street-wise, book-smart and technosavvy. Unfortunately, those possessing solid core work ethic values are in short supply. That puts them in high demand, and there's never been a better time to unplug the computer and get eyeball-to eyeball with young people.
The good news for educators who chose meaningful over easy is that they'll never be replaced by a computer.
RELATED ARTICLE: Author, Educator and Speaker
His latest book, Reviving Work Ethic A Leader's Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce is available on Amazon. Chester is also the founder of the Bring Your A Game to Work training and certification program, teaching critical work ethic values to teens and young adults. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_chester.
Eric Chester is an award-winning speaker who has keynoted more than 150 CTE state and national conferences and hundreds of staff development programs. Eric can be reached at 303-239-9999 or at eric@RevivingWorkEthic.com.
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