Conversations and the Flat World cont.

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So tonight was our ‘Beginning of the year BBQ’ basically a meet up of all the teachers to welcome each other back from the summer break. It’s a good time to catch up on what everyone did this summer and meet some of the new people.

I happened to sit down next to our new High School science teacher who introduced me to her fiancé. She is a ‘local hire’ meaning that her fiancé is here on business and she got a job with the school after moving to Shanghai with him. Basically it’s all about pay and that as an overseas hire we get more benefits than those who are ‘local hires’. She is a certified teacher who just happened to follow her fiancé to Shanghai and found a position at our school.

Her fiancé is where the conversation is. He works for a large multinational computer operation based in the U.S. (I’m keeping this on the low as you can tell) he is based here in Shanghai and does marketing work for the company. Once I found out who he worked for and what he did I was all questions and he was keen to respond. As much as I would have loved to post the whole conversation here, I’ll just give you the best parts.

We were talking about what skills kids need today and for that matter what skills he looks for when hiring people for his company.

“I’m looking for people who know how to learn! I don’t care about your degree or any other piece of paper you might have. I want to know your experiences, have you been faces with problems, how did you solve those problems and what was the outcome.”

Let’s stop right there. I’ve tried to remember this word for word the best I can and it’s been about 3 hours since our conversation. Think about what he’s saying. Think about the skills he’s asking for and looking for in a worker.

“It’s not about knowledge, with the Internet today you can teach yourself anything. The question is do you know how to learn it and can you find the quickest most efficient way to find the information and solve the problem at hand. I’m looking for thinkers!”

So at this point I’m jumping up in down ready to put the man on stage and let him talk to the entire staff at my school. Then he hits me with this.

“What are schools doing or can you do to help kids gain these types of skills?” (This must be the fiancé being a teacher part!)

After I picked my jaw off the ground I smiles and say, “Good questions!”

The conversation went on from there and we talked about his office.

“Look, it’s just an address. Sure I have an office, but I go there only twice a week at best and that’s to have my English/Mandarin secretary tell me what was in my mail.  People don’t get it today. I work from home. I’m talking to the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, and the US. All I need is an Internet connection. I don’t need an office.”

Here is the scary part this is the 3rd conversation I’ve had this week were I’ve met people or their spouses that “Telecommute” to work. One for a large multinational bank, one who owns his own finance firm in Miami and this fellow who works for the multinational computer company. The most fascinating of the bunch is the guy who owns his own finance firm. Basically his wife told me “He can live anywhere…he does all his work on the computer, so we decided we wanted to live abroad and decided on Shanghai. He goes to Miami for two weeks every year, other than that he telecommutes to work. Of course I never get the computer, but we’re happy and he spends more time with me and we explore the world from here.”

Is it a flat world? Yes. Are people really living in it? Yes. Is China everything the news makes it out to be? Yes.

Are we teaching the skills students need to be successful in this new environment?

Can we teach these skills?

What does our focus need to be?

How do we get there?

What needs to change?

All questions that are running through my head as I try to go to sleep tonight. I just hope we have answers to these questions. Otherwise is education really preparing our students for the world that awaits them?

[tags]conversations, China[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. At the present time, I believe (as a private-school teacher and parent of three public school educated daughters in the American school system), that the majority of students are not prepared by the system to know how to learn on their own and understand that learning is a life-long process. There is too much emphasis put on standardized and high-stakes testing, rather than out-of-box thinking and innovation. Too many teachers are looking for the cookie-cutter answer and the kids who know how to reproduce these answers seem to get rewarded the most in this educational system.

    Can we teach these skills? Yes, of course! These skills can be taught by encouraging students to go outside their comfort zone and “experiment” with their learning. We as adults, as teachers and educators also have to model that we are on the same path of life-long learning. Teachers (parents) have to feel comfortable to show their students (children) that we gladly reverse roles and let them be our teachers too. Web 2.0 tools are a great start to teach these skills.
    We need to emphasize (as educators) to our students and their parents, administration, and politicians that the world is flattening. We need to spread the word to them that this business man who said,

    “I’m looking for people who know how to learn! I don’t care about your degree or any other piece of paper you might have. I want to know your experiences, have you been faces with problems, how did you solve those problems and what was the outcome.”

    is representing the a big part of worldwide employers today and their “potential” employer ,when our students enter the job market, will definitely have this frame of mind. IIf our students don’t broaden their horizon and learn to think outside the box someone else in the world will have.
    Global education should be the core of all curricula. An expectation for high school graduation should be to know at least one, if not more foreign languages and be cultural competent in them. A competitive resume should include at least a foreign exchange semester or internship abroad as a requirement. Experiences like these will help our students see and internalize that there is more than one way to look at a problem and more than one way to skin the cat.

  2. Christie Welch Reply

    change is difficult, especially in a system that has been doing business the same way for over 100 years. It is time to change, we do need to start producing graduates who can think on their own and problem solve. As a school counselor this is the basis for what we teach kids, problem solve. I’m hearing this more and more from our business community, they aren’t really looking for GPA’s they really want students who can look at a problem and find a solution. We as educators need to realize that this world is not what it used to be when we went through the system. We are not the same as the students we are currently teaching or will be teaching, and it is time to stop looking at them as if they are “mini me’s”! This is going to be uncomfortable for us, we need to re-think and re-learn in order to give our students what they need to be sucessful in the world. I’m excited for this and hope to bring as many educators on board as I can!

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