There’s a lot of buzz about employability skills these days. We at Pitsco are talking a lot about them too. So, what does it take to be employable? Education and industry have indicated we want today’s learners and tomorrow’s leaders to have the capacity for or to possess skills in:
- Critical thinking
Some might say these aren’t all necessarily new skills. And that’s probably true. The roots of employability are where they’ve always been, in indispensable life skills. We wholeheartedly agree these skills are required for students to navigate the world they’re living in and actively influencing.
But that world is digital. Technology and its breakneck pace demand we use these skills in ways other generations haven’t. Generally, we think about these abilities as personal skills, or “soft skills,” and not in the schema of tactical, digital skills. But let’s consider:
- Need to find a solution to a question or an example of a situation? Google or Facebook
- Need a product recommendation? Instagram or Pinterest
- Need instruction on a task? YouTube or Reddit
- Need to work as a group? Google Drive, GroupMe, or Skype
- Need to send someone a quick message? Messenger or Snapchat
- Need to brighten someone’s day? E-gift card or funny meme
Looks like problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and empathy at work to us!
We regularly turn to digital sources to supply an answer, method, or direction for so many things. It is now an inherent first response. These skills transcend person-to-person and person-to-problem skills.
Plugged into Hands-On Learning
We’re champions of hands-on, minds-on learning. But the reality is that means manipulatives and the integration of technology. STEM is science, technology, engineering, and math, after all ;). Many schools now have a one-to-one ratio of digital devices to students or, at the least, have multiple computers and tablets available. And there aren’t many projects that don’t begin with an Internet search of some kind or aren’t supported with online resources in some capacity. But when it comes to social network sites, districts often thwart access to many of them. Now, to be clear, limitations and safety protocols are absolutely warranted, but social networking sites are a part of students’ daily lives and ingrained in their natural mode of communication, so we need to find a happy medium.
Instead of closing these networks off from the learning process, let’s integrate these social networks. And, more than that, let’s help students learn to craft a positive social profile, contribute content, and develop their digital marketing skills. Because, ultimately, that’s what their social accounts and histories are – digital résumés for their personal brands. We must help them learn how to use the platforms better, understand how to decipher valid information from hype, and set boundaries and barriers.
So, what does this look like tactically speaking? A few suggestions could be to allow students to create content in Google Hangouts (or its next iteration) or on their own WordPress sites. Let them create YouTube videos to help teach a topic. Encourage them to learn how to craft reviews or provide feedback for fellow students in platform comment sections. The possibilities and interactions are almost limitless. Also, take this opportunity to have an open discussion on how social media can affect their physical, mental, and financial health. Help them develop healthy, purposeful habits.
Not sure where to start? Pop on over to Common Sense Education, a vast resource for all things digital. Their stated mission is to be “the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology.” One our favorite resources they’ve created is this list of the top 24 social networks for students and teachers. It summarizes the application or site, its cost, the grade-level reach, and a thought or use case.
Digital skills are employability skills and, . . . #ThisIsSTEM.
Are you already helping students build their digital skills? Drop your best tip, idea, or lesson to learn from in a comment below.