It is clear that no matter how much we try to prepare students to be successful on the workplace, we cannot completely cover everything that they will experience once they start a job. Simple reason… we can’t read the future yet. If your students were Grade 9 six or seven years ago, and if they went to college after high-school, they will likely be starting their first “career-oriented” job right about now. If we think of this time in terms of history of technology inventions and developments, by the time your students graduate college and start working, school will have prepared them for pretty much nothing (or very little) of what they will find on their workplace. Take a look at this timeline, outlining what happened during these six or seven years since being a Grade 9 student:
(it’s almost 2012 now, but lets look back at 2004 as a starting point)
Facebook was launched.
Notebook PCs outsell TVs during the holiday season for the first time.
Mozilla Firefox 1.0 is released.
GoogleMaps is launched
YouTube is founded and comes online Feb 25, 2005.
Microsoft XP Professional is released.
Microsoft releases Xbox 360.
The blu-ray is first announced and introduced.
Toshiba releases the first HD DVD player in Japan.
Twittr, aka Twitter, launches officially.
Sony releases PlayStation 3.
Nintendo releases Wii.
Microsoft releases Microsoft Windows Vista to corporations.
Apple introduces iPhone.
Microsoft releases Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 to the public.
Google releases Google Streetview.
Google releases Android.
Amazon.com releases the first Kindle.
RIM named “Canada’s Top 100 Employers”
Facebook (launched in 2004) overtakes MySpace in Internet traffic.
Microsoft released the Bing search engine.
Gmail gets out of beta and released to the public.
Apple introduces the iPad.
Apple introduces iPhone 4.
Amazon reports that it is selling more Kindle books than hardcover books.
RIM announces the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer.
Microsoft acquires Skype.
Apple introduces Apple 4S.
RIM lays off 2000 people – the biggest lay-off in its history.
So in a nutshell, we couldn’t have prepared our students for all of the above. We couldn’t have taught them about social media, Internet bullying, mLearning, etc. And considering the timeline of all events, it was impossible for us to predict all these changes. And naturally we cannot predict what changes will happen six years from now. That’s a normal thing and shouldn’t be a reason for concern. Until we actually learn how to use a crystal ball, we have nothing to worry about. (So educators, please stop worrying about not being able to catch up with technology :) )
However, there is another thing we don’t prepare our students for, which is quite different from what they experience at school: learning on the job. Yes, we talk about life-long learning and constant exploration and curiosity. However, the learning process that happens at work, is very different and could be quite challenging if one is not prepared. When our students graduate school, college, university, they are coming out of a system which encourages a different type of learning than the one at a workplace. Below are some characteristics of “learning at school” and “learning at work”. While these aren’t set rules of how learning happens at both places, they represent a general picture of what happens. There are always exceptions of course.
|LEARNING @ SCHOOL||LEARNING @ WORK|
|Follow a lesson plan||Often there is no plan|
|Learner-focused and teacher-driven||Learner-driven and company-focused|
|Learn then apply||Learn as you apply|
|Individual learning style in your own pace||Individual learning style in the company’s pace|
|Talk to go-to person (teacher) then self-explore||Self-explore then talk to go-to person (mentor)|
|Learn for a test/exam/graduation standards (fixed quantity of material)||Learn continuously (indefinite quantity of material and knowledge)|
|Team-work is preferable but not always a requirement||Team-work is preferable AND a requirement|
|Change is usually minimal||Change is usually constant|
|Learning causes change||Change causes learning|
|Single source of assessment (teacher)||Multiple sources of assessment (managers, peers, etc.)|
|Steady predictable learning curve (due to following a prescribed curriculum)||Dynamic unpredictible learning curve (no curriculum)|
Have you noticed other differences? Please add them to the list.
So how do we prepare our students? Are we prepared ourselves?
One way is incorporating bits of “work” learning into collaborative projects. In one of my courses, I set a deadline (for fun) to complete a task in class. The results didn’t have to be perfect and the activity was not graded. In a very short time, my students had to work together (small groups) and find out as much information as possible on a topic. When the deadline was over, they had to drop everything they were doing and attend a “meeting” where they shared what they had achieved. The exercise was fun because the speed of work kept everyone going and motivated to finish. There was no competition (e.g. which group collected the most information). It was a fun thing to do. When sharing, everyone provided their point of view and allowed for other groups to contribute. The end result was great. The exercise not only taught them what a tight deadline is, but also revealed that you don’t have to have perfect results to be able to share them with the team. The team is what makes the end result… “perfect”. Also, my students all noticed that if you set unrealistic goals for yourself (too much work in too little time), it can be quite challenging. Finding ways to overcome these challenges or communicate their concerns openly is extremely important. And that’s exactly what happens in the work place. If you are not able to communicate properly and assess your abilities fairly, you keep saying “yes, I can do it” and then end up with too much on your plate and a whole lot of stress. Sometimes on the job, you have to learn something very fast because you don’t have all the time in the world to get up to speed. This is a task that may cause a lot of stress. If you don’t know how to handle it, it could lead to the natural resentment and disappointment. That’s why addressing the issue of different learning environments with our students is important and will help them become successful and more adaptable in their work.