Takeaways from Skills 2014

Five takeaways from the Skills 2014 summit on reimagining "Skills for the 21st Century":

  • Teachers today have a more challenging job than ever before: Teaching is no longer just about imparting knowledge to kids - it's about getting them ready for the great unknown, a world we don't yet understand, and for jobs that don't yet exist. A beautiful provocation from Lord David Puttnam: schools today are fearful environments but young people are "desperate to be allowed, to be encouraged to be fearless".  This is a huge responsibility.
  • Schools need to nurture the innate entrepreneurial skills we have as children but which the school system systematically drills out of us: Saul Singer says we tend to think innovation is about ideas but anyone can have an idea - it's about what you add to it. It's about drive, willingness to take risks, emotional intelligence, leadership, collaboration and sacrifice, the sense that there's something bigger than you. How do we "teach" these skills? Through applied learning - learning by doing, project-based learning, getting students to get out of the door and build something.
  • Coding/design is much more than a skill - it's a way of thinking: Coding develops passion and plasticity - it helps you understand that everything can be changed, that this world can be reimagined (a thought-provoking contribution from Roland Lamb). We need to stop thinking of it as programming and start thinking about it as a thought process, an approach to problem-solving.
  • There's more to gaming than blood, violence and sore eyes: Gaming tends to be demonised (chess was too at one point!) but as gamification guru Ian Livingstone reminds us, game skills = life skills (think problem-solving, intuitive learning, trial and error, risk-taking, teamwork, imagination). There was a lot of controversy around Grand Theft Auto but it made $1bn in 4 days of sales - it's a British success story. And games-based learning has had and continues to have a profound impact on education across the spectrum.
  • We are moving and shaking:  We often look to the US as a benchmark but the real trailblazers bringing coding to schools are NZ, Korea, Estonia and, now, the UK. Skills 2014 summit saw the official launch of the Year of Code, a fantastic drive to get Britain coding as a nation. From September 2014, computer science will be a compulsory part of the English curriculum with kids as young as 5 learning about algorithms and Key Stage 3 kids being able to work with at least 2 languages and undertake creative and problem-solving projects. We're finally talking about changing mindsets in education -  moving from a culture of consumption  (how to use tech) to a culture of creation (making things). Yes, we will make mistakes. It's inevitable. And that's okay, as long as we keep learning.