What’s the single most important thing that most schools should be teaching, but aren’t?
Two years ago, before sending my senior advisees off to college, I dedicated several meetings with them to life skills—how to mange a credit card, pay bills, do laundry, and lead a healthy, independent lifestyle. It amazes me that, by and large, schools neglect to emphasize these crucial abilities. You can take all of the AP math classes in the world, but they won’t do much good if you don’t know how to manage a checkbook.
In the July 1 edition of Fortune magazine, I came across of something equally important that most administrators won’t touch, even with a ten-foot pole.
Reporter Jessi Hempel’s piece, “Everything You Need to Know about LinkedIn,” left me wondering why more schools don’t teach effective social networking. Most IT departments don’t even allow access, a trend that must change. In an age when higher education tuition is skyrocketing along with youth unemployment and underemployment, I can think of no more effective tool to help 20-somethings market their potential.
“In the past year, LinkedIn has emerged as one of the most powerful business tools on the planet,” Hempel writes. “Long considered a repository for digital résumés, the network now reports 225-million members who have set up profiles and uploaded their education and job histories. These days they’re doing far more than prospecting for new gigs. LinkedIn users are building professional portfolios that showcase their best work, from publications to videos to PowerPoint presentations.”
Hempel writes that LinkedIn will soon report which skills are in demand and where they’re needed, as well as let users know what companies hire graduates from what schools. At the high school level, we need to teach students about what to post, how to create attractive multimedia content, and how to make the most of their networks.
This means hiring teachers who have computer, design, and video production skills, as well as a passion for showing students how to make effective and responsible use of Web 2.0. For schools that are strapped for cash, I strongly recommend Pathbrite, an incredibly easy to use e-portfolio that allows students to present their best work online.
“Some educators encourage the creation of blogs through WordPress,” writes Zachary Stein of Pathbrite in an April 24 SpinEdu article. “Others use Evernote to capture all of life’s minutes. Still others are looking at how timelines in Facebook or LinkedIn, pin boards on Pinterest, and backward looks at Twitter feeds might help to inform introspection. But many more are working with Pathbrite to introduce portfolio learning and growth into the classroom. Portfolios capture all of the above in a single, curated environment and are used to both teach and inculcate learning-by-doing, documentation and, yes, reflection.”
Beyond LinkedIn, schools should offer courses on how to create and maintain a blog. Students could follow and write about something that interests them, whether that is sports, fashion, news, politics, or anything else under the sun. Teachers should use the Internet to empower young minds and help them earn recognition. In an August 30, 2011 article on MindShift, “Six Reasons Kids Should Know How to Blog,” author and teacher Jenny Luca’s words ring even truer today.
“Kids need to start establishing a positive digital impression of themselves,” Luca writes. “Without question, it will be the norm for these students to be Googled when they begin to look for jobs—even if it’s part time. As young as they are, they need to cultivate their personal brand, and they can do this by posting about what they’re involved in at school, learning in their classrooms, or other co-curricular activities they enjoy. We want our students to understand that they can control the message about themselves on the Web, and that they can point prospective employers, colleagues or university admissions officers.”
Educators do a tremendous disservice by demonizing LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Too often, I speak with well-meaning colleagues who refuse to acknowledge the merits of maintaining a professional online presence. Unfortunately, much of this repudiation stems from an unwillingness to learn new technologies.