In preparing students for the essential skills they need for the future, we have different methods and digital tools that we can bring into our classroom space. But what skills do students really need?
A great resource to explore is the skills outlook provided by the World Economic Forum. The top skills cited include emotional intelligence, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.
What is important to note is that these skills align with the five core competencies of social-emotional learning (SEL) skills of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship building, and decision making.
Because of the changes that we experienced in the past year, I believe that it is important to have various options, whether teaching in-person, hybrid, or virtually. Choosing methods like Genius hour or project-based learning, activities such as scavenger hunts or learning stations, or selecting digital tools that promote more interaction with and between students will help foster the development of essential future-ready and SEL skills.
How to foster the development of future-ready skills
Educators might wonder how to build SEL activities into the classroom and whether it takes a lot of time. Depending on the methods or tools chosen, some of them do require more planning and preparation initially, but there are so many benefits that the time is definitely worth it.
Here are four methods to consider:
Digital breakouts and Escape rooms
These have become more popular over the past few years. Even during virtual learning, they can be a great way to have students work together and build skills of collaboration, communication, problem solving, and critical thinking. Using breakouts and escape rooms are also beneficial for the development of social emotional learning skills as well. There are a lot of ready-to-use games available to get started with.
With Genius hour, students explore an interest or a passion. It is focused on inquiry-based and student-driven learning, and infuses more student choice and student agency. Students have a chance to “Share their genius” with classmates. Genius hour builds student curiosity, encourages collaboration, and will help students to become more confident as they explore on their own and share their knowledge.
When I changed my classroom a few years ago and changed the rows into stations, there were many benefits for students and my own practice. With stations, using a mix of hands-on materials and digital tools enables students to experience more personalized learning and promotes the development of SEL.
It enables educators to develop a better understanding of where each student is on the learning journey to better plan for their lessons. Using stations also creates a collaborative classroom community where students can engage in activities with their peers, which supports building self-awareness, social awareness, and peer relationships.
With methods like project-based learning (PBL) or problem-based learning, students drive their own learning, leading them to become more independent and have choices that lead to more authentic and meaningful opportunities.
It helps them to develop self-management skills in particular when setting goals for their research and dealing with any that come with independent work like PBL. Giving students the chance to explore something of personal interest or curiosity, promotes independence in learning, builds student agency and also helps us to learn about their passions and interests, which assist us in designing learning activities with them in mind. As educators, we must focus on connecting them with the world and preparing them for whatever they decide to do in the future.
Read more: 10 DOs and DON’Ts in Project-Based Learning
Using technology to build future-ready skills
Especially during the past school year, digital tools helped facilitate learning in many different settings. Choose one or two versatile tools that will promote student choice and empower them to move from content consumers to creators.
Here are three ideas using digital tools:
With some of the platforms available, we can keep students engaged in learning by including a variety of activities that promote collaboration, discussion and creativity in learning while they build skills in the content they are learning. Some of my favorites include using Formative, Google Jamboard, and Nearpod, and Classkick, all of which are beneficial for connecting students in learning, whether in-person or remote and which enable educators to have access to data or information about where students are in the learning process.
Students can develop vital technology and digital citizenship skills as they learn to create multimedia presentations to demonstrate learning. Our favorites include using tools that offer options for all students that meet their specific interests and comfort levels with technology.
Check out Buncee, which has designed an SEL toolkit with ready-to-use template activities for grades K-6 and 7-12 in addition to having thousands of ideas for classroom use and more than 38,000 items in their media library. Using a tool like Wakelet enables students to include images, text, Flipgrid short videos, and other links to share with classmates and their teacher. It is simple to get started with, and it offers students the chance to create their own lesson or even a digital portfolio to show their learning journey. Book Creator is another option for having students collaborate on a book and include audio, video, text, images, and more and build SEL skills.
Spaces offers a digital portfolio platform that assists teachers to better understand students, their interests and needs in learning. Digital portfolios help students to develop SEL skills of self-awareness and self-management. Having students share their portfolios with classmates is also helpful for building relationships and social awareness. The benefits of portfolios are that students track their growth over time and can identify strengths and areas where they can set new goals.
There are many methods and tools to explore, but it's important to focus on the why behind the choices we make for our students. The use of digital tools promotes collaboration, communication, creativity and many more essential skills while also promoting the power of choice for students to share what they have learned.