Over the last few weeks, I have been working on a Skills Label for primary education. These labels bridge with the mainstream ones, so the whole process of finding and using the learning labels starts earlier. Now, the learning labels effectively work with K-12 education, higher education, and early career training.
Through the process, I built labels for projects, games, and activities targeting STEM, STEAM, and basic skill development. It is exciting to see all the resources available for younger students. Some might seem surprising because they target what seems are mature skills, like learning to be an entrepreneur. And there are far better science projects – like creating a motorized LEGO object.
All of this is great for the students who have the ability, time and resources to participate in these projects. Not all students are prepared for these learning experiences, and it seems educators are still exploring how to incorporate this type of learning in the classroom. But, coming from a growth mindset – Skills Culture, I think students feel if they put the time and effort into acquiring skills, they should be able to acquire them.
Perhaps the biggest barriers are providing awareness what resources exist (many are free), motivating students to try them, and giving student the time they need. What is exciting is after students follow the instructions and complete the project – setting off a rocket, creating a business, or building a robot – they start to ask questions, such as: “How can I make a rocket fly higher and farther?”; “Can I actually sell my graphics and make money online?”; and “How do I get a robot to do a particular task?”.
This exploration in applied learning is plausible. Students have the opportunity to see what skills they might want to continue working on, perhaps even as a possible career. (This might also address the dismal high school engagement, or provide alternative paths to a job.)
Some of the other observations I had:
For many of the projects and games, there is a fair amount of information regarding what is being learned. But, it is all in a narrative. If you are an interested parent or teacher, you are going to have to read paragraphs discussing all the knowledge learned in a project. This learning summation is not precise and has a different format and style for each project, experience, or game. Skills Label sets the standard as a clear, concise, and quantitative way to measure what is being learned.
For many of the games, there are two kinds of games: old ones (many in Adobe Flash); and new ones (native applications, with depth to them). Finding the best games on Google is not easy. Many of the older games are higher ranking in search engines (due to number of years with a domain/link and cross linking), so it takes some time finding the best ones. I see this as a long-term benefit of Skills Label, building a search engine to find and make comparisons of learning resources; once enough educational publishers and game creators are using these labels, then this value – a specialized learning search engine – is realized.
If you create learning resources or are a teacher or professor, visit Skills Label and start creating labels.
I wanted to come up with a good way to share a ‘collection of labels’ representing tasks for a course. So, I created Skill Syllabi – standard syllabi with additional sections and features to support the managing and tracking of skills. In addition, to address the collection, teachers use an interface to bring in the labels they have created into the syllabus (as shown in the diagram above).
Most teachers and professors are already using a learning management system (LMS). (I would like to get most LMSs to import and display the labels, like what has been accomplished with Google Classroom.)
Here are some arguments why you should consider Skills Syllabi (regardless whether you are using a LMS system):
- Accepts a collection of Skills Labels. First create the labels, then create a syllabus and bring in the labels.
- Provides options and a basis of comparison. From a collection, students choose twenty out of forty possible tasks. Students use the labels to make comparisons, then add them to their tasking.
- Prioritizes skills. Starting to see a movement towards applied learning and thinking in skills, these syllabi distinguish how and when skills are applied in learning – a necessary addition to the traditional syllabus.
- Fits on a page. Simple display, everything is readable from a single page in a browser.
- Uses interactive features. When students are logged in, they can personalize and use the syllabus their own way.
- Replaces a Word or PDF syllabus. If you are a professor, you are already creating a syllabus. Use this application instead of Word. Still, prints nicely from a browser.
- Efficient, not time consuming. With the wizard, it is easy to make a new syllabus. If you create the labels, it takes seconds to import them into a LMS and the syllabus (and you assured of one display – label – wherever you use it).
As a new semester starts, consider using Skill Syllabi to build your syllabus and a way to assign a collection of Skills Labels to your students.
Over the past six and a half years, I have written three business plans for new technologies. I do not consider myself a ‘serial entrepreneur’ because each of the technologies could (should) work together, still I pitch them separately. If one of them gets funded, there is a good possibility the others also get funded for two reasons: the collective value increases if one of them gains traction; and there is shared or cross integration functionality (such as a database).
I find the pitch process interesting. Personally, I am a thinker and tinkerer. I like to ‘actualize ideas’. Catching the nuances and schmoozing is not something I am good at. Without question, hustling in part of the process.
I went to business school twice, so I know the value in product testing, understanding customer needs and wants, and marketing and branding. Sure, I full heartedly believe in establishing a company culture and rallying a team of employees and partners around it. But a lot of this comes later.
When you are truly innovating (inventing) software, you need to build and protect the technology as quickly as possible. Of an immediate concern, you need to: get funded, make key connections, commit with partners, build a team, and establish a user base. Whatever the meeting / conversation, my mind is on these five objectives.
The latest two technologies I have been working on are Skills Based Approach and Skills Label. The latter is a patent pending utility – a standardized display to express learning expectations and outcomes in any discrete task. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in working with me on these cutting edge technologies.
Three years ago, I wrote a piece on the disconnect between companies and higher education, which I called the ‘Squeeze on Higher Education’. Not much has changed in the intervening years. This week I read an updated article from Gallup, where the numbers were the same or (worse?).
The de facto college degree is getting squeezed from two directions: employers requiring professionals to build new-age technical skills (where there is currently a skills gap); and typical students who are faced with the rising cost of a traditional college degree and must take on significant debt.
Everything is fine according to higher education leaders. Ninety-six percent of chief academic officers of colleges and universities “believe that their institutions are very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the workforce”, but only 11% of business leaders “strongly agree” according to Gallup’s article 3 Ways to Realign Higher Education With Today’s Workforce.
(In my previous article, I referenced a pair of Gallup Polls in 2014.) In one of them, a very strong majority of business leaders say hiring managers consider ‘knowledge’ and ‘applied skills’ as ‘very important in hiring decisions’ – 84 and 79 percent respectively. (This is far greater than the ‘degree’ or ‘college attended’ in the same category, only 28 and 9 percent respectively.). In the other, business leaders were asked if higher education graduates have the skills ‘my business needs’ and 33 percent disagreed and 34 percent were neutral to the statement.
From the students’ perspective, there is pressure. In 2017, student debt for 44 million Americans is around 1.3 trillion (same article). Yet, many graduate ill prepared to start making contributions at a company.
I think the problem is not stressing enough importance on applied, skills based learning and not effective planning to have the skills needed for a career. I also think alternative forms of education are optimal for specific careers. Many technical careers work best with a combination of classroom and experiential learning. This seems to suggest a ‘new age’ apprenticeship and /or mentorship model. (As I have always said, many higher education institutions will adapt and offer these new programs.)
Skills Based Approach is an effective platform to plan, track, and assess skills as students navigate into the career roles. It is ideal because of its: adaptability to work with all forms of education; and longevity, in the sense it suggests continuity (in planning and building of skills) through education, higher education, and early career development
Skills Culture is a growth mindset where students are motivated and take action to learn and apply skills. Practitioners (professors and business leaders) work to identify and communicate the demand for skills in their organizations. Working together, all parties use the mindset to address the communication disconnect between them and have a basis to move forward.
When I came out with Online Personal Brand a few years ago, I differentiated from the other personal brand approaches (fourteen books I read) by creating a functional model. I suggest each person, first establishes each of three elements – skill set, aura, and identity – then projects them onto networks; in the book, I provide a detailed discussion of each of these elements and when they overlap.
I did not jump on the ‘self-promotion’ or ‘popularity contest’ bandwagon. Self-promotion is necessary in situations, but so is self-prevention. Self-promotion is not me, so I do not relate. I promote ‘idea promotion’ and getting recognition when and if deserved.
The identity element is critical (and something often left unattended by personal branding experts). In a hyper-connected world, we constantly make new connections, write posts, and share content in social media without considering the consequences. We get enamored by the ‘network effect’.
Despite what they tell you, companies offering a service either advocate an identity or network – something I call network versus identity. It makes sense. According to Reeds’ Law, the utility of networks can scale exponentially by the size of the network. In addition, social media services offer ‘profiles’ that are essentially boxed layouts so there is not a lot of latitude to express yourself in a visually appealing way – a personalized, deeper way.
As you establish an identity – a personal website and social media profiles, consider the six R’s:
- Redundancy. Think about how your content and information is used across the internet. Can you take steps to consolidate, cross reference articles?
- Relevancy. How do you fit on your networks? Make connections with purpose. Try to recognize value or a reason in making a connection. Establish your own expertise.
- Rights. As you share content online, consider royalty and copyright privileges. With almost every social media service, you relinquish royalty rights to your works.
- Relationships. Networking requires making connections with varying depth. Remember to be human.
- Rule. Take ownership of your identity. With your personal website, take control down to pixel of space.
- Resonance. Similar to relevancy, consider how your message (in content, posts, updates, etc.) is unified and clear.
I have argued a personal website is an ideal representation of your identity. In constructing a personal website, it should be all about you. Visit www.theprofessionalwebsite.com to learn more.
When I first heard the phrase: “Hire Character. Train Skill.” I protested, not because of the character statement but rather the skill statement. The intention is to emphasize character over skill in hiring. But I think someone who has mastered his or her skills deserves commendation (getting hired). Skills have a very human element, especially when you start to talk about ‘soft skills’ and behaviors and analytical thinking skills, both of which are extremely hard to automate.
I got in a social quagmire trying to express my point of view as many argued hiring is all about character. So, I thought it was worth further exploration.
Hire Character. I understand you hire someone based on character. You always evaluate someone for sound character. The evaluation differs based on the type of role this person plays in your organization. A leader, manager, or someone in HR must have exceptional character. They are interfacing with your workers and lead by example. The bar for programmers might be lower – it is a highly technical skilled job with less interface with the team. (If an employee does not lie, cheat, or steal and has the skills, then they perform well and do not hurt the company.)
The type of company matters too; perhaps this is where the promotion versus prevention relationship comes into play. If a company is in marketing, branding, or hospitality, character is measured not only internally, but also externally by clients and the public in general; in a way, a company promotes the character of its employees. A software company hires engineers based on whether they can immediately start contributing; a company wants to prevent poor character from harming the normal flow of business.
Hire Skill. I think you hire based on skills. These candidates have already put the time, expense, and dedication to properly learn a set of skills. You have candidates prove they have the skills by demonstration and /or assessments. Furthermore, in applying, candidates signal they know what it takes to apply the skills and they want to move forward in learning them. In addition, you should assess the soft skills (non-technical, and subtle skills) that represent your company culture.
Train Skill. I believe in a growth mindset, where a student or professional feels motivated to acquire skills if they put in the necessary time and effort; part of a skills culture. Therefore, if a company is willing to pick up the expense (time, money, and resources), then they should be able to teach the necessary skills. However, there will be variances in the expenses and motivation levels of new hires. There is no guarantee a new hire sticks through the process.
So, all I did was insert “hire skill” into the phrase ahead of “train skill”.