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Superintendents’ forum: Rethink and Reimagine

This article was originally published in the Reading Eagle:

By: Dr. Cathy Taschner, Schuylkill Valley School District
Thursday, January 18, 2024

Remember when phones hung on walls? Remember when turning a key started a car? Remember when eyeglasses were for reading? Remember when maps were in a book? Remember when students had questions they would ask a teacher (instead of Siri)? While many of us do remember these days, our students (and even some of our teachers) do not!

The world is changing; this is undisputed. Schools will need to change. This is also undisputed, but how schools need to change is the subject of much discussion.

While many schools have grappled with and adapted to the implementation of one-to-one initiatives, the majority of our students already come to school well-versed in the use of computers, tablets, and hand-held devices. In fact, in many cases, children are already the de facto family technology gurus, and they can be seen demonstrating the latest and greatest technology feats for parents, grandparents, and others.

Students no longer look to schools as the leading source for information nor as the first place to obtain knowledge. Similarly, the world we will send students into following graduation no longer needs employees who can merely memorize and recall information.

In their 2021 article discussing the skills needed in the future world of work, Dondi, Klier, Panier and Schubert assert that though the specific skills for the workforce of tomorrow are not firmly apparent, the ever-changing workforce will be impacted and dominated by artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics. In short, the labor landscape of tomorrow will require a workforce that can think, problem-solve, and adapt.

Preparing such a workforce will require new approaches to curriculum that grapple with the questions currently being posed and debated in response to the widespread use of artificial intelligence.  It will also require an appreciation and prioritization of educational programming that strengthens the skills that will be needed in the future of work.

Programs offered by schools will continue to emerge as integral to the preparation of students for entry into the global workforce. Among these are vocational-technical programs like those offered at the Berks Career & Technology Center, which use the latest technology to prepare students for the world of work; FFA and agricultural science programs like those at the Schuylkill Valley School District (and other area schools) that teach students leadership, public speaking and entrepreneurship skills; along with  robust internship programs that link schools to industry partners.

Preparing the workforce of the future will also require schools to develop lasting partnerships with forward-thinking institutions of higher learning such as Kutztown University that hold a shared commitment to preparing today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders. These partnerships provide a pathway that supports continuous and uninterrupted learning during and beyond the high school experience and will be a gateway to developing the critical thinkers and problem solvers needed in the workforce.

Recently Gov. Josh Shapiro signed into law Act 56 of 2023. The act provides schools with a newfound flexibility and the chance to rethink and reimagine our most basic use of time. While seemingly insignificant, Act 56 creates an opportunity to advance our schools and to advance what our schools can offer.

There could be no more exciting time than the present to be a part of public education. The future of our students and the future of our schools are dependent on our collective ability to work together to re-think and re-imagine what our schools will continue to be.

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