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Soft skills as a survival tool in the 21st century

Опубликовано Vera Novikova вход разное · 14/10/2019 11:52:46
Tags: contemplationfuture

I wrote this article in April and posted it in May at my friend's and colleagues' blog: https://iraluts.blogspot.com/2019/05/soft-skills-as-survival-tool-in-21st.html

In this post I would like to share some concerns regarding future employability of millennia generation and a shifting role of an English teacher in particular.
Being a devoted sci-fi fan I have to admit that up until recently ideas of a fully automated world seemed rather futuristic and somewhat improbable. Up until recently… when I realized that certain sci-fi future elements have already been here for some time.

Most people have already turned into some sort of cyborgs, using their smartphones as an extra part of their body. We have been glued to the screen, scrolling down in social networks, streaming videos, exchanging photos and news, jotting down memos, video phoning, e-buying, reading e-books, blogging, plunging into virtual reality and what not. We have turned into digital residents leaving visible digital footprints whenever we post or search. Our kids seem to have the inborn digital skills.
This life seems natural to us but still it makes me worried
How can we help our kids survive and adapt to such a rapidly changing world?
My 9-year-old son has been keen on underground trains and systems since he had a first ride back when he was about 2 years old. One of his dreams is to become an underground train driver when he grows up.
So one day he comes up to me and says “Mommy, I don
t want to go study anymore in school”. I carefully tiptoed around the topic and managed to elicit the reason why. “I dont have a dream any longer. Soon robots will operate underground trains in our country. I will not have a job when I grow up. So I dont want to study anymore”. I reassured him saying that they will still need human specialists to create programs for these robots, to maintain and supervise them. This reply calmed him down. But it did not calm me.
How long do we have until our reality is augmented so much that some human jobs will get obsolete?
A similar idea keeps popping up. A psychologist Yurkovskaya keeps on saying that contemporary schools do not provide skills that our kids will need in future. We teach 21st-century students in 20th-century buildings with a 19th-century educational design. Another psychologist Petranovskaya adds that current life is far more dynamic than our education, which is too inert, and under such circumstances the true potential of kids cannot be fully revealed.
At a NATE Conference for English Language Teachers in St. Pete I heard an idea which struck a chord with me. A British teacher Philip Warwick stated that now we are in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution.

As English teachers we have always been among the first to adapt to changes. We already provide edutainment. We use various types of teaching:
distance learning
electronic learning
flexible learning
learning through Google
mobile learning on the go
nano-learning in small 3-minute bits
conventional learning
But what shall we do when machines start teaching English? Can we compete with computers? Can we compete with artificial intelligence?

As a matter of fact we can. The future of our profession as English teachers is very much shifting. And those who will be able to adapt will be able to survive these changes. “We have to become the 21 st century assessment expert: not a sage on a stage, but a facilitator teaching skills to process the information”. (P. Warwick)
The world has changed. People
s brains got lazier. We do not need to memorize as much as we used to, instead we just google it. And those who speak several languages have deeper thinking abilities, and thus they have a certain competitive advantage.
“By being able to operate in another language, by being able to codeswitch, not just knowing the words and the vocabulary, but by being able to be actually bilingual in some shape and form, or trilingual, we
re improving working memory, were creating an inhibitory control … and were braintraining.
As English language teachers we
ve got a secure future. But that future is less about teaching English, its more about improving these areas through English. And I think thats the future of our profession”.
(P. Warwick)
By coaching mostly one-to-one in the last 10 years I came to the same conclusion. I have been teaching my students how to communicate their ideas, how to cooperate with others, how to solve problems and think positively, how to plan their lives, how to be an efficient communicator in order to exist, survive and operate in an English-speaking environment. As a result I sometimes called myself a shrink rather than an English educator.
At NATE conference I learnt that these communicative life competences are called soft skills as opposed to hard skills
grammar and vocab.

“Education has shifted from trying to train kids to become producers, trying to train kids memorize things and to obey instructions, because the one thing that robots can do is memorize things and obey instructions. What we need to embrace is our very humanity. And our humanity is that creativity, that collaboration, that critical thinking”. (P. Warwick)

“Embracing our humanity” means that we have to focus on our human side and skills. In order to be successful in a highly computerized technological world we can win only if we use our competitive advantages our socio-emotional intelligence, our creative and critical thinking, our ability to communicate using non-verbal means and body language, grasp the tiny shades of meaning due to the intonation of the speaker and the situation, our ability to negotiate and cooperate, to take social responsibilities. And we can teach our kids to be more human, to think outside the box, to be tolerant, to be able to communicate efficiently. This way we will help them be employable and hopefully happy in their future.

Image credits:

1. The future road exit sign: https://www.siemens.com/press/pool/de/pressebilder/2013/infrastructure-cities/soic201308/072dpi/soic201308-07_072dpi.jpg

2. Philip Warwick and industrial revolutions: Vera Novikova
3. Robot vs. human: https://www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/1271_b-640x353.jpg
4. Soft vs. hard skills: https://dinamicatreinamentos.com/uploads/png/soft-and-hard-skills.png
5. City: Photo by Ginji Ito on Unsplash


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Tags: teachingresources

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