By Sarah Raskin, Design Engineer
A Reflection on Alison Berman’s Article: “Automation is Eating Jobs”
The garage door flung open just as the oven timer buzzed; it was dinnertime at the Raskin house. As my family settled in around the kitchen table and bowls of food were passed from hand to hand, the conversation began to flow. Being the “nosy” mom that I am, I couldn’t wait to hear all about Ella’s first day of sixth grade. After the usual exchange of questions like, “How was your day?” and “What did you learn?”-to which I typically receive one-word responses like “fine” and “not much,” Ella expressed her concern over whether or not she received a good score on the math placement test she took during the day. Worried that my daughter was already under stress after one day of school, I reassured her that giving her best effort is what matters and that the rest will take care of itself. With a roll of her eyes, Ella brushed off my motherly wisdom and melodramatically proclaimed, “If I don’t do well on that test, I won’t be placed in the ‘top’ math class, then I won’t get into Honors Math in middle school, and there goes Stanford.”
Tempted to laugh, but being very aware of how real “pre-teen-o-centria” really is, I passed the baton to my husband. Nate, who typically uses humor to maneuver around such hurdles, pragmatically added, “Strong math and science skills are important.” Excellent, we are almost there, I thought to myself. With Ella listening intently, Nate elaborated, “After all, you will need those skills for your career as a doctor. You really should be a doctor. Right?” And there it was, the epic FAIL!
While this sounded like a typical conversation from my childhood with a caring Dad reinforcing skills learned in school and directly correlating these skills to a valued career that will provide for a lifetime of prosperity, we must recognize that the times have changed! We know that the pace of change is accelerating at a rate that we can’t even imagine. Data collected in a 2013 study by two researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that only 27% of college graduates will have a job that relates to their major and that on average these graduates will have seven different careers, not jobs, but careers during their lifetime. It’s like moving from the Stone age to Starbucks in ten years! With the advancement of technology, automation, and artificial intelligence, we can anticipate disruption in such traditionally stable career industries as accountancy, pharmaceutical, and the medical field. So, this begs the question, while our students will always need a strong foundation in such core competencies as literacy and numeracy, what additional skills will our children need to remain relevant in a world of rapid change?
To answer this question, we must realize that we are entering an age of inventive resilience. Durable skills such as the ability to communicate effectively, collaborate with others, think critically, demonstrate cultural intelligence, problem-solve effectively, and demonstrate empathy for others are every bit as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. In fact, they are the skills that matter most! Providing opportunities for students to solve human-centered, interdisciplinary, and real-world problems will support them in becoming flexible thinkers and engaged citizens. Perhaps, we need to reframe our question from, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” to “What is your unique contribution that you can give the world, and how will it adapt over time?” After all, once we understand our value to society, we can imagine our probable and possible futures and bridge the gap between.
In an effort to demonstrate my own inventive resilience as a parent, I shifted my paradigm from viewing our previous conversation with Ella as an epic “FAIL” to our “First Attempt In Learning” and committed to try again. After redirecting how I confronted the math class drama, and reframing the questions I asked, the discussion sounded much different.
I began by asking Ella, “How do you add value to the world?” She responded with a list of durable traits, “I am kind, responsible, strong, and confident.” I then asked, “If you had to describe your purpose in this world in one word, what would it be?” She shared, “Empathetic.” Finally, I questioned, “How will being empathetic add value to the world now and in the future?” In my proud mama moment, she quoted a famous line from Dr. Seuss’ book, The Lorax, and shared, “It is like the line from the book, The Lorax, 'Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.'”
Something tells me that no matter what career field Ella will enter one day, her ability to demonstrate empathy, will not only allow her to adapt with the times, but also contribute to making our world better. Isn’t that our greatest hope as parents?
By Ashley Whipple, 5th/6th Grade Teacher at Carmel del Mar
Ready, set, jump! That’s exactly what the start of this school year and implementing Design Thinking has looked like over at Carmel Del Mar School in Room 303. And I must say, this start and jumping in has been so refreshing, just as an ocean dip feels this time of year. In my fifth and sixth grade combo class, reinvented and renamed as “Team 56”, we have plunged ourselves right into acquainting ourselves with the parts of the Design Thinking process as we have begun something called “The Shoe Project”.
“The Shoe Project” has been an incredible diving board to spring us into not only learning the parts of design in an approachable format, but has also allowed us to intentionally connect as a new team of mixed grade level learners. “The Deep Dive” also known as the research part of the process, encompasses one of the most quintessential elements of the Design thinking process: empathy. Before any means of defining a user’s needs, brainstorming/ideating, prototyping, and collaborating a learner, or designer rather, must spend time accessing empathy for the user(s).
As I fixated on the reality that empathy is the heart of the design process, initiating the start and success of the entire Design Thinking process, I could not help but see this as a great way to give my students a very genuine and organic way to connect with each other at the start of the school year. So what did this exactly look like in the classroom? In taking shape, we partnered up with a user from the opposite grade level within our our team and began interviewing our user about his/her shoes. Our shoes were our starting place that served as the perfect talking point to begin learning all kinds of information about the user. Interviewing took an entire forty-five minute session, as both users interviewed each other, getting to know each other, and learning about some subliminal needs we as users actually have in regards to our shoes.
As a teacher, and one who is passionate about Design Thinking, I can’t help but highlight and note that the refreshing nature of the “Deep Dive” came out of the magic that happened witnessing my students diving right in. The smiles, laughter, engagement, care, curiosity, inquiry, and EMPATHY that drenched our environment was absolutely magical. The genuine excitement that had been ignited through interviewing a user to gain empathy in order to identify a user’s shoe needs naturally propelled my students into the design process. They couldn’t help but want to further connect and to present a possible solution for their user. That being said, our next step is to conquer the ways to explicitly create a need statement for our user based on the information gained in our interview process, bringing the “Deep Dive” of the Design Thinking process to a close and moving us closer to presenting solutions.
And that is what it looks like to get the heart of Design Thinking pumping. It’s magic.
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