How do we prepare students for a changing world?

Last month on the KnowledgeWorks blog, Remake Learning Council Learning Innovation Specialist Sunanna Chand reflected on the future of learning in Pittsburgh. As we’ve seen this month, change can come quickly.

Pittsburghers know that already—our economy has changed at an astonishing rate in the past few decades. A region once dominated by steel manufacturing has quickly become a tech epicenter.

“We can’t live in that reality and think that education can proceed the way it has been for hundreds of years,” Chand writes.

To prepare students to adapt with the changing world, the education system must teach resourcefulness, creativity, collaboration, and innovation. Young people must be equipped to confront whatever storms or sunny days may lie ahead in their lives and communities.

KnowledgeWorks, a national college and career readiness foundation that provides professional development and technical assistance, specializes in documenting and predicting educational change. Last spring, Remake Learning and KnowledgeWorks teamed up to document the likely changes coming in our region, and to track how well our learning community is preparing for that change.

“We can’t live in that reality and think that education can proceed the way it has been for hundreds of years.”

The resulting guide, which we featured on this blog, presents visions of what the future of learning might look like, with signposts of how well Pittsburgh’s educational ecosystem is adjusting. An adaptation of a national forecast, the guide highlights local smart learning environments like SMALLab and Montour School District’s Z Space Lab, the region’s movement toward personalized learning, and programs like Digital Corps, which assemble unconventional configurations of educators and adult mentors.

In retrospect, Chand says, her most significant takeaway from the forecasting process was the reminder that the rate of change accelerates.

“The rate at which new inventions, ideas, and marketplaces emerge and then become obsolete” is exponential, the forecast says.

The forecast also reminds us that, amid new fields and new opportunities, “equity is not a given.” It is critical that a network like Remake Learning, with more than 250 members across public, private, and academic sectors, combines its collective power to build a future in which it is.

Earlier this month, we covered some of the efforts in the region to make room for all young people in the changing economy. Partnerships between schools, businesses, and community organizations have proliferated.

The Fab Lab at the Carnegie Science Center is teaching young people to use robotics equipment, laser cutters, 3D printers, and sewing machines. Funded by Chevron, the innovation lab offers youth workshops, professional development, field trips, and birthday parties.

TechHire Pittsburgh, a program from the Three Rivers Workforce Development Board, trains disadvantaged teenagers to be computer support specialists. The jobs can be pathways to the middle class for those without college degrees. Another organization, Catalyst Connection, pairs up small manufacturers with students for six-week problem-solving exercises.

These organizations know that the future is uncertain. But no matter what change awaits today’s students, educators and their partners can help prepare them for whatever might lie ahead.