I had a great experience working with a group of teachers and leaders in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, a couple weeks ago. While I like to kid about them being a “tough crowd,” the truth is that they were an open-minded group who asked great questions.
One of the participants (I can’t recall her name – sorry!) challenged me during my session to identify the Top Ten Things Every Graduating High School Student Know or Understand. Since I enjoy a challenge, I told her I’d work on it and post a response here. I’m not sure it’s what she had in mind, but it’s the best I can think of.
- Know what is valuable. The value of factual information is either at or quickly approaching zero. What you need are skills. Skills that will allow you to learn and re-learn will be more important than factual knowledge. Now, don’t read this to say that factual knowledge is never valuable or that it shouldn’t be taught — all things in moderation will create balance — but if all you take away from science class is that you memorized the Periodic Table, then we may have a disconnect between what we do in school and what you’ll do when you’re done in school.
- Learn how to learn. In our information-rich, always-on, instant-access world, the winner isn’t the one who knows the most, rather it’s the one who can do the most. So how do you learn? Do you read a book or watch a video? Do you find a mentor or expert tutor? Do you throw your search at Google and click “I’m Feeling Lucky”?
- Tackle interesting problems, and be OK with messy solutions. Find an interesting problem and solve it in a unique way. But know that the answer will rarely be found in the form of a 5-paragraph essay or a nice, round integer.
- Be a connoisseur of information. Anyone with a computer or cellphone can do a Google search. But you need the information literacy to make sense of the results. The trade-off of having all this information a click away is that you’ll need to be able to read and assess it for possible reliability and validity issues.
- Be conscious of your digital footprint. It’s never too early to start being aware of your online presence. You will be Google-able and you will be Googled. I suggest that you be certain that you’re in control of what people find when they Google you.
- Give back. Share. Contribute. Help out. It doesn’t have to be monetary.
- People are more important than technology. Technology is awesome because it gives us the ability to break down barriers. We can share and collaborate in ways that, even as recently as 5 years ago, seemed like the exclusive domain of the crew of the Enterprise. So use the technology to build and strengthen connections, but always remember that technology is only one tool in relationship-building.
- Find something you’re passionate about. Life is really going to stink if you can’t find something you love to do.
- Be nice. One effect of all this technology is that everyone who’s anyone has a blog or a Twitter account or a Facebook account. That’s swell. But what I don’t particularly care for are those who use these platforms as a soapbox to pop off about anything and everything simply because now they can. And because there are no short-term consequences, people uncork with things they’d never say in front of actual people for fear of getting punched.
- Play. It’s not just for kids anymore. Play is an important part of learning. It helps us think.
So that’s pretty much it. I’m not sure if it’s what she expected, but that’s that I think our kids need to know when they leave high school. I sure hope you weren’t expecting me to say they needed to understand the electoral college or how to change the amplitude of a sine wave. They can look that stuff up when they need it.