Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Scatter/Gather: Where Have You Been All My Life?

It's so exciting to me to find a site/book/person who says what I have been thinking but so clearly and fluently. 
What if you could text a one-dollar donation for every story you heard on NPR that really fascinated, moved, or taught you something?  It would be extremely easy to do, and probably at least as likely to bring in $50 a year (the threshold for station membership) as the twice-yearly membership drives where NPR implores listeners to remember the importance of those same programs.  Added to the usual membership option, the text-a-dollar possibility would provide an instantaneous reward for them and, however surprisingly, for you.  That’s because the incentive isn’t a random prize; it’s an emotionally affirming action, tied to an experience you’ve already decided is important to you.

From my most favorite site I just discovered: Scatter/Gather. The entire article is here.  

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Five Critical Skills for New Employees

I am asked occasionally to act as an interviewer so our students can have some realistic experience to prepare for their job search. Our students are generally very well prepared when it comes to using particular technologies. They are ready to enter today's job market.

But are we doing an equally good job preparing them for tomorrow's? Here are my five top skills students need to possess to be successful in the future:

1.Ability to collaborate and communicate digitally.
2.Solve problems.
3.Both be able to tell a compelling story using multimedia tools, and maybe even more importantly, be able to deconstruct and interpret a compelling story using multimedia tools.
4.Validate a proposed solution.

Ability to collaborate and communicate digitally.

The "cloud" or whatever you want to call the digital realm, is no doubt, the meeting room of the very near future. Our students need to be comfortable both with the technology and the gestalt of these spaces. They also need to be able to collaborate there...to be able to present their own ideas, build on the ideas of others, abandon their own ideas if better ones are presented. Our students will be called upon to create new knowledge and productize it. The most efficient way to do this is through collaboration, and in a global economy, collaboration is digital.

Solve problems.

More than once I have assigned a task with a team member, only to find later that s/he got stuck at some point, and was not able to move ahead. His/her response? To just wait, either for me to come back or for a miracle to occur that would unstick them. The current generation seems to be extremely unprepared to solve problems. I look for individuals who can correctly define the problem, who can break it down into parts. I also want to know how others have solved similar problems. And sometimes similar problems are in a totally different field. Once the problem is defined, solutions must be proposed. Note I said solutions, plural. And a solution must be planned and implemented.

Both be able to tell a compelling story using multimedia tools, and maybe even more importantly, be able to deconstruct and interpret a compelling story using multimedia tools

Multimedia tools are no longer the property of one group of individuals, namely graphic designers. Everyone must be facile with these tools. But telling the story is perhaps the easy part. Students must also be able to deconstruct and interpret the compelling stories others tell. If students are unable to do this, their perspective and understanding will be dictated wholly by the storytellers.

Validate a proposed solution.

This skill is closely related to both problem solving and interpreting stories. But I call it out because it is so critical. If students are unable to validate solutions, they will choose the easiest, least expensive solution. Or the one fronted by the most compelling storyteller. And frequently, the best solution is neither the cheapest, easiest, or compelling.


Finally, our students must be adept at finding a reasonable middle ground that preserves the most important attributes, features, or qualities of both sides. Today's world is woefully short on negotiating skills as anyone who reads the daily paper can see. My experience has been that my youngest employees are particularly poor at this. They frequently adopt an all or nothing position that frustrates and puzzles their co-workers.

It is our responsibility to prepare our students to improve the human condition, and giving students vital practice in these five critical skills would be an important first step.