A few weeks back I gave my first PechaKucha talk at an event held by Caltabiano and Seven Idiomas. I decided to share something I’ve been interested in for about 2 years now since meeting Jonathan Nalder, the founder and Director of FutureWe. This blog post based on his research and work along with input from Monica Smedback, Nick Burnett, Scott Millar and Amanda Rablin.
Hi there folks, if any of you follow me on social media and know my work today, you might be surprised to hear that I used to be a really traditional English teacher. In fact, you might have even heard me say something like…“give me a blob of blutak and a deck of flashcards and I can create you a course.”
And I wasn’t exaggerating! You see back then, I was all about teaching lexical lists and followed a rather rigid lesson plan framework that relied heavily on “What’s this? Listen and repeat!”. How times have changed!
Just like so many others, I have begun a journey of transformation and I’m fully aware that my role as an English teacher needs to be radically re-written if I am to remain relevant as we enter what is being called “the fourth industrial revolution.”
It has been predicted that 40-70% of today’s jobs will be impacted by AI. What you see in the image below is not an unrealistic prediction of what the future holds. This is relevant for us of course, but especially for the current generation of students in our classrooms.
(Image from http://futurewe.org/#how)
At a recent conference I attended about the future of ELT, many people were raising the question of whether or not the English Teacher will, in a not too distant future, be needed at all.
With the rapid advancements of simultaneous translation devices and platforms that offer self-guided learning for language students, is it so far fetched to imagine a world without language schools and without people having to invest all that time and money on English classes?
But it is not my intention to paint a bleak picture of the future. Quite the opposite! I don’t think for a second that I can be replaced by a machine and that is because I believe that humans have skills that AI can’t replace. These are what you’ve heard described as 21st Century skills or soft skills.
Now, it seems like we’ve been hearing about these for at least a century but has anyone seen anything really new in ELT. I’m talking about a concrete, large scale solution that will actually enable learners to engage with, improve and show their competence with these skills…all while learning the English language.
Well, I haven’t. But about 2-years ago, I met Jonathan Nalder and joined the launch team of FutureWe. I’m so excited about this and I am not alone. This international community has over 430 specialists from different areas contributing to build the Framework that you see below.
The idea that drives this project is simple. For students and workers to be ready to thrive in the future, educators and trainers need a shift in mindset. We need to stop forcing students to spend years learning content (like English) for these pre-set future tasks that they may never need to do.
Instead, let’s teach the skills that will allow people to be ready to invent new solutions, create their own jobs – no matter what the future brings.
The FutureWe Framework features five top-level domains, 20 ‘future literacies’ and over 45 key ‘best practice ideas’.
But this may still seem a little abstract. So I’d like to share 5 ways that I think teachers could practically apply this framework and transform how English is taught in Brazil.
- As the backbone for planning projects.
The 5 domains in this framework are actually a process: Get started by exploring, and playing ideas, getting creative. Then you need to listen to your team and your community and build supportive relationships. Next, it time to design, map and plan possibilities. So you can then start working to make your project real. Finally, you need to work out how you will communicate and share your results. If you are using PBL, this is a perfect way to structure a series of lessons.
- Recognizing different skill sets within a group.
Get your students to complete the Framework Mapping Survey online for FREE. With this information, they may discover strengths they didn’t know they had. Imagine how those students who struggle academically will benefit from knowing that they can contribute to group work in other areas.
- Forming groups based on their strengths.
I can also imagine how much more productive and effective group work will be when you can form teams that have this range of different skill sets. Each person will have an opportunity to shine at a different stage of the project.
- Brand new approach to materials writing
Despite all that has been said about 21st Century skills, priority continues to be given to traditional skills such as listening, speaking, reading and writing. However, by mapping traditional course book units to the framework, I see potential for materials writers like myself, to approach curriculum design from a whole new perspective.
- Link curriculum back to real world purpose.
Teaching lessons that link to the framework can help demotivated learners see real life relevance in what they are being asked to do. For example, the framework specifically calls out how learning a second language is a key method to boost lateral thinking and metacognition.
While these 5 ideas are yet to be tested in ELT, they are all based on the work of educators in the FutureWe community. If you feel like this is something that could benefit you and your students, visit the website and access the incredible free resources that are there or come talk to me. Don’t let a robot steal your job!
Learn more, find latest versions + join to help evolve the framework: FutureWe.org/framework
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