Educators talk about making students future ready, but I would argue that the technologies and automated procedures we think of as being “the future” are already here in the early stages of adoption. Store automations and advances in automated vehicles have been all over the news and if our students do not come out of high school with the appropriate skills, we are looking at mass joblessness. Retail stores are already struggling with the creation of online stores like Amazon. Why go out and purchase an item when it can be delivered to you via drone within a few hours? Amazon has even had a drone deliver a package without using a human pilot meaning they could eventually go without drone pilots in the future (Amazon Video). With Amazon dominating the holiday shopping season, stores like Macy’s announced that they will be closing a number of brick and mortar stores and cut as many as 10,000 jobs (CNBC article). Not only has Amazon made news with it’s online sales, but also for the Amazon Go store which allows consumers to purchase items without stopping at a register to check out meaning a reduction in the need for people to run checkout lines.
Retail is not the only industry looking at job loss due to technology. Uber has built its entire company on the intent of getting rid of the drivers and just sending out fleets of automated cars to provide transportation for people. Driverless cars are getting closer and closer to being a daily reality. Hyundi showed off their Ioniq at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (article), Google has already brought driverless technology to the Chrystler Pacifica minivan (Wired magazine) and driverless trucks have already started to appear on the roads. As of now, they need a driver to get them onto the main highways, but then they can hit auto pilot and let the truck take it from there (Wired Magazine). Currently there are about 3 million people employed as drivers in the United States. Those jobs will disappear as the technology becomes advanced enough to take over the entire drive without individual oversight within the cab.
What does this have to do with educators? Well, everything. The world our students are walking into is going to look very different from the world we entered when we left high school. Jobs like retail sales, food service worker, and driver will be harder to come by which will require workers to have more specific skills to find employment.
We cannot always anticipate which jobs will be created in the future. For instance, blogger and social media executive were not a part of the possible job picks when I was in school. So teachers have to focus on skills that will allow students to adapt to the changing world. To do this we have to be willing to stop teaching and start letting students learn. They need to learn how to solve problems not only for themselves, but problems they see in their communities and the world around them. The role of the teacher is to guide students as they work to solve these problems. Teachers do this by showing them how to think critically, look at the problem from different angles, accept failure, learn from their mistakes, research reliable sources, and accept help from others. These are the lessons that need to be learned because who knows what coding language or specialty skill will be in high demand next.