Since the turn of the century there has been increasing attention on K-12 education systems and improving the quality of curricula and authentic learning experiences for students entering the 21st century workforce. There is greater emphasis on elevating fields in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in response to workforce demands that are requiring a more tech savvy multidisciplinary skillset.[i] For this reason, numerous new learning approaches, curricula, programs, community partnerships, and specialized schools are emerging.[ii] While most of these initiatives address one or more of the STEM subjects separately, there are increasing calls for emphasizing connections between and among the subjects, as well as bringing real world problems into the classroom through business and industry partnerships with educators. STEM is rapidly transcending into a verb, describing inclusionary critical thinking skills to solving everyday real world problems facing our communities and socioeconomics.
APPLIED SKILLSETS & LIFELONG LEARNING
Education advocates and academic researchers find that a more integrated, problem-based, hands-on learning approach is vital to the K-12 education.[iii] This is because it gives students applied skillsets that today’s workforce requires. These advocates find educational impacts increase when K-12 educators involve solving real world problems. The education impacts are furthering impacts when the educators include business and industry partnerships that support the problem-based learning approach. These authentic partnered learning approaches make STEM subjects more relevant to students, teachers, and program participates. [iv], [v] This in turn can boost motivation in the learning process and improve students’ interest, achievement, and persistence in schooling and become lifelong learners. Being and remaining lifelong learners is be critical for success in the 21st century. These outcomes, STEM advocates are asserting, will help address calls for greater workplace and college readiness as well as increasing the number of students considering STEM careers; where currently 40% of STEM jobs go unfilled due to applicants not having the required skillsets.[vi] Extension can be a solution to closing the 21st century skillset deficit and connecting our youth to STEM skillsets and career pathways.
“Lifelong learning is an essential challenge for inventing the future of our societies; it is a necessity rather than a luxury to be considered … It is a mindset and a habit for people (student, educator, or the worker) to acquire. It creates the challenge to understand, explore, and support new essential dimensions of learning such as: (1) self-directed learning, (2) learning on demand, (3) informal learning, and (4) collaborative and organizational learning. Lifelong learning requires progress and an integration of new theories, innovative systems, practices, and assessment.”
-Gerhard Fischer, Director of the Center for Lifelong Learning & Design of the University of Colorado
To learn more about skillsets necessary for the 21st century, technology impacts, the OSU Digital Flagship Initiative, and a list of educator resources, read the complete blog article.
|Meghan Thoreau is a County Extension Educator for Pickaway County.|