The future of STEM

Girls in STEM PLC @ ASMS– The Future of STEM and how it impacts education

Imagine you’re a 14 year old. How do you know what you want to be when you grow up? Your teacher, doing some course counseling, asks “What do you want to do?”. It’s not a helpful question, especially given the warnings that students we teach now may grow up to have a job that doesn’t exist yet. Speakers from the Flinder’s University New Venture Institute suggest asking “What are you passionate about?”.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCGV1tNBoeU&w=560&h=315]

The world is changing rapidly. The job market is changing rapidly. We are in the Fourth Industrial Age. If you watch the video from the World Economic Forum above, you might notice that all the revolutions are happening in the STEM space. In fact, most of the innovation is happening at the edges – where disciplines connect and people have careers that cross boundaries. Where science and technology meet to create AI-enhancing medical diagnostics where business and technology meet to create secure blockchain-based supply chains from producer to consumer, or where technology and biology converge to produce cyborg embedded bio-tech.

The future is a rapidly changing one. The instability and uncertainty of the future is anxiety-inducing! Yet, there are great opportunities and it’s claimed that today’s generation are the most powerful students who can quickly transform society for good. That’s a scary thought given what my year 9 class looks like most days, but it’s true that students have access to so much empowering technology. With a few clicks, anyone can create a professional looking design or have a complete website built. Anyone can start a social media movement for good that goes viral overnight, or start online bullying that can bring someone down overnight. The power is immense.

Going back to the idea of a changing job market: NVI says personal branding for people is a skill set that students need to develop. What they know isn’t necessarily going to get them a job – it’s the skills they can demonstrate and bring to a position. It’s likely to become a ‘gig economy’ in some sectors – you sign on for a project, then move on. It will be important to have an ability to blend and work across disciplines.

So, the explicit teaching of transferable skills, and not just content knowledge, is going to be vital for our students. Embedding skills of agile design thinking, entrepreneurship, creativity and critical thinking, collaboration and communication across all subjects is needed. Every other industry is being impacted by technology, and so will education. Technology is already being harnessed for automating content delivery in classrooms – the differentiator for humans is in skill development.

The question remains: as educators, what is the most important thing we must do now?

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