That the world is changing rapidly comes as no surprise to anyone who’s dialed a rotary phone attached to a wall or wearily rose from a comfortable couch to change the channel.
But the relentless and breakneck pace at which technology is evolving might startle even the most avid futurist.
UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education (IBE) aims to make sure that educators around the world are equipped to keep up – and, to that end, has enlisted NIU’s Yanghee Kim to help ensure that happens in time for the jobs of the future that will be technologically intensive in almost every arena.
Its global efforts to define, create and immediately implement an integrated STEM curriculum for K-12 educators seek to foster future-oriented competencies in robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, cloud computing and the internet of things characterized as Industry 4.0 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
IBE recognized and valued Kim’s knowledge and expertise to promote a new and shared global understanding of curriculum issues. It also provides practical technical support addressing critical areas that impact provision and delivery of equitable education for all within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Kim recently led a professional development program for implementing integrated STEM curricula in K-12 classrooms. The program was sponsored by UNESCO in Istanbul at a consortium of private schools, where she worked with 80 select teachers from all levels to understand the demands of their classrooms, their professional needs and how technology can help enhance their teaching.
“Our lives will be different. Are we preparing our children for this rapidly changing world? Many skills that they are learning in the current classrooms will be obsolete, and they will struggle to meet job requirements,” says Kim, director of NIU’s CREATE Center and the NIU College of Education’s Morgridge Endowed Chair. “The current education system was developed over 100 years ago. The content and needs have been changing constantly, but the system of teaching is the same.”
Educators also must seek better methods of assessment that overcome the limitations of test scores in providing credible and critical information on competency development, she says.
At the core, however, Kim says that students of today and tomorrow must learn to confront and find answers for real-world questions with competencies not separated by disciplines.
“Education needs to be geared toward the development of children’s competencies to solve meaningful and relevant problems,” she says. “Learning math and science concepts can be naturally embedded in learning to solve problems, where they learn in a deeper way rather than just memorizing.”
Kim also has brought technologically enhanced learning to local schools.
At one local elementary school, she tested the use of humanoid robots as teaching assistants (or learning companions). Robots can be used to enhance classrooms, covering some curriculum, freeing some teachers’ time for individualized in-depth interaction with children.
“Children like to learn in a small-group setting, with a peer who can mutually help each other,” she says. “I believe in the power of robots to assist children.”