Preparing Students for the Unknown

There has been much written and discussed in the past few years about the critical skills students will need to compete in the global digital workplace. Last October, we reported on a study by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills ("Will Our Students Be Prepared?" by Judy Salpeter, October 2003). This month, our cover feature, "The New Literacy," revisits the topic from a slightly different perspective. Veteran ed tech leaders and authors Sara Armstrong and David Warlick apply a fresh logic to the issue by showing how the digital and networked world of today and tomorrow necessarily requires the evolution of the 3 Rs into a new learning model.

A key assumption of the new model is that most of the jobs our students will hold in their lifetimes have not yet even been invented — and thus teaching them to teach themselves is the most valuable skill we can give them.

It makes sense. Twenty-five years ago, it would have been a long shot for guidance counselors to predict that IT would play such a pivotal role in businesses and schools or that Web commerce, multimedia design, and search strategies would be so central to the completion of our everyday activities.

Tomorrow's jobs might include that of the Chief Security Officer who maintains the privacy of sensitive information, while ensuring those who legitimately need it have access. Another position might be Chief Authentication Officer. Like a private investigator, this person would be charged with evaluating the authenticity of information found on the Web, including legal documents, curriculum resource materials, the histories of prospective employees, and more. And on the federal front, the Spam Prevention Squad will no doubt always be looking for a few good men and women to help contain this menace that regularly threatens to cripple the Internet altogether.

But whatever those future jobs might be, it's probably a safe bet to assume that many will be associated with some aspect of managing information. To that end, we hope you'll find our feature article helpful in both a visionary and a practical sense.

Also this issue, we bring you additional practical information in "Special Needs Technologies: An Administrator's Guide," and in our Product Spotlight on digital whiteboards which offers both detailed comparisons and tips for getting the most for your money.

And finally, don't let your students be left out of our 2004 Portraits of Learning digital photo contest. For details on how to enter, click here. We're looking forward to judging this year's crop of masterpieces.