Research & Trends
New Report from Global Google Research Project Considers the 'Future of Education'
Global Trends and 'Preparing for the Future' Highlighted in First of Three Reports
- By Kristal Kuykendall
Google for Education has released the first report from a massive, two-year study considering the role of education in a “radically different future,” and what that might look like.
Part 1 of Google’s Future of Education report focuses on big-picture themes seen as most likely to impact education and the future workforce in the coming years and decades.
Google for Education undertook the project to better understand the complexities and current challenges facing the education system post-pandemic, to better “position ourselves as not just thought leaders but as partners” for educators, Global Head of Education Impact Jennie Magiera told THE Journal. Magiera introduced the report and offered background in a recent blog post.
“With teachers and students coming back after COVID-19, there’s a lot of challenges to overcome, and there’s been an accelerated rate of technological innovation and adoption particularly in education,” Magiera said in an interview with THE Journal. “The classroom has changed drastically and very quickly in the past few years, and as we look toward this future that is radically different from the past 100 years, we’re asking ourselves, what should the role of education be, and how might that look?”
Parts two and three of the Future of Education project will be released in the coming months, said Magiera, who was a K–12 classroom teacher for a decade in New York City and Chicago before working as a district leader, a chief information officer, and as an advisor for the Obama administration’s ed tech planning efforts. Part two will focus on “evolving how we teach and learn” and part three will be about “reimagining the learning ecosystems and the spaces,” she said.
“These reports are not intended to say, ‘this is the exact roadmap of how to do this or what the future is,’” Magiera explained. “These are more about what we are hearing these thought leaders saying from around the world and coalescing around these points, and here's how Google sees our role in it, and here's some exemplars of how it's already happening.”
The report, “Preparing for a New Future,” covers three trends identified during the project research, wrote Google for Education Vice President Shantanu Sinha in the foreword. Those trends are:
- Rising demand for global problem-solvers
- Change in the skill sets required for work
- Shift to a lifelong learning mindset
Google for Education leaders partnered with researchers at Canvas8 and the nonprofit American Institutes for Research to find common threads and actionable principles among insights from 94 educational experts, two years of peer-reviewed academic literature, and an analysis of education media reports and narratives.
Each trend is explained in the context of recent and historical developments worldwide, in society at large and in economic and educational settings.
For example, the discussion of Trend 1, the “rising demand for global problem-solvers,” kicks off with the question “How can educators prepare tomorrow’s leaders to address global challenges?”
The report continues: “The issues of our day, such as equitable access to education, digital literacy, sustainability, and economic volatility, are only getting more complex. In order for today’s students — tomorrow’s leaders — to address these challenges on a global scale, the experts we spoke to expressed a need for both global mindsets and multidisciplinary skill sets. Specifically, they highlighted the role of educators in helping students become civic-minded, collaborative problem solvers. ”
Several “Ideas In Action” — specific examples of how schools, public agencies, and education nonprofits are addressing the needs of each trend — are offered throughout the discussions.
A Trend 1 Idea in Action, this one from Canada:
“Developing global mindsets: Belfountain Public School in Canada launched the Sustainable Future Schools pilot program in 2020, which allows students to align their course content and projects to one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the duration of the school year. The program helps students improve their global problem-solving skills through both independent and collaborative work. Students of the program experience improved learning outcomes, and gain the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to create positive changes in their communities.”
The discussion of Trend 2 identified in the Future of Education report begins with the question: “In the age of automation, which skills will be in high demand?”
Noting the World Economic Forum projections that by 2025, “technological change may see 97 million new jobs created, while 85 million existing roles may disappear,” the report acknowledges that anticipating what skills are needed for jobs and tech that don’t exist yet is challenging at best, and statistical forecasting is slow, expensive, and not always accurate.
One Idea in Action offered, from Sweden , called “Using big data to map future skills ,” explains how the Swedish Public Employment Service’s JobTech Development initiative “uses AI to integrate previously siloed data sets (such as job advertisements and forecasts for future in-demand skills) from 500 different organizations into one place, providing a highly accurate, real-time forecast of the skills Sweden’s workforce needs in the future.”
Google for Education emphasizes the top five in-demand skills by 2025 listed by the World Economic Forum:
- Analytical thinking and innovation: The capacity to solve novel, ill-defined problems in the real world.
- Active learning and learning strategies: Understanding of the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Complex problem-solving: Abilities that influence the acquisition and application of knowledge in problem-solving.
- Critical thinking and analysis: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems, as well as assessing performance of yourself, other individuals or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Creativity, originality and initiative: Capacity to analyze information and use logic to address issues and problems, apply alternative thinking to develop new, original ideas and answers.
“The biggest barrier that teachers face globally to teaching new skills for the 21st century, is a perceived “lack of time within a strictly regulated curriculum,” the report said. “Finding easy ways to help educators efficiently identify and teach such skills will be key for progress, and will require greater collaboration between educational providers and the private sector.”
The report also emphasizes the importance of exposing students to future career options much earlier:
“Changes in the workplace will unlock new ideas about how to approach career education too. Currently, by age 15, most students have not yet spoken to a career counselor in school, visited a job fair, or done an internship. Experts argue that exposure to this new world of work should start earlier to give students the opportunity to shape their career pathways and aspirations over time, rather than simply focusing on their first job after formal education.”
One of Google for Education’s tactics in addressing this trend, the report said, is its initiatives expanding access to computer science education.
“Our Code with Google programs and products attempt to bridge this gap and help students from underrepresented groups develop the skills and confidence to become tech innovators. Through programs like CS First, we offer an introductory computer science curriculum that anyone can teach, no previous experience required. To date, CS First has reached 2M+ students and 70K+ teachers across over 100 countries. Through creating and sharing class projects, honing their storytelling skills and finding new ways to communicate their thoughts and ideas, students are empowered to showcase their creativity and problem solving abilities.”
Trend 3 identified in the first Future of Education report is about the importance of lifelong learning and why it matters.
“For education systems, this means encouraging a mindset that is ready to learn, unlearn and relearn beyond the scope of formal education,” the report said. “As education evolves to meet the challenges of a fast-changing and unpredictable world, lifelong learning will also be important for teachers, who will require quality professional development to keep pace with change. With half of educators and school leaders in OECD countries unable to pursue training opportunities because of busy schedules, the idea of accessible, timely, attainable lifelong learning and professional development remains an area of opportunity.”
One of the Ideas in Action highlighted under Trend 3 is from the United States: “Tracking skills with digital portfolios: Microcredentials — new forms of modular and short-form learning experiences — are providing flexible ways for individuals to upskill. Given that microcredentials increasingly use digital instead of paper records, experts expect that in the future, every learner will be able to keep an accurate, easily verifiable, digital portfolio of all of their skills in one place to share with employers or other education institutions throughout their life. Exploring this possibility, The Digital Credentials Consortium, which includes representatives from leading universities around the world, is investigating how blockchain technology could be used to build such digital credential ‘portfolios’ for learners in the future.”
Another from the United Kingdom highlights a nonprofit-funded open-access professional development program for educators:
“Experts agree that continuous professional development is critical for professionals to remain effective, but resources and time are often lacking. Platforms such as Teach2030, led by the UK education charity Commonwealth Education Trust, gives teachers control over their professional development by offering bitesize, affordable and low-data professional development courses for teachers in challenging economic environments. The courses can be accessed either individually or as part of a whole school’s continuing professional development. More than 10,000 teachers from over 40 countries accessed Teach2030’s courses in 2020 alone, with nearly 50% from sub-Saharan Africa.”
Magiera said she hopes teachers and school leaders will consider the report’s findings in bite-sized pieces and allow it to inspire their own efforts to prepare their students for the future.
“Putting on my classroom teacher hat, or my school district administrator hat, if I have this report in front of me, I find this highly executable, and within each trend, the exemplars from the field that are offered, I could see how I can take these ideas and try stuff out in my classroom immediately,” she said. “These reports say, ‘here's the concept, but if that is hard for you to visualize, you can see these examples and see that see it within a context that looks familiar.”
Download the report at Edu.Google.com/future-of-education.