Expert Q&A | Daniel R. Woolf

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Expert Q&A: Daniel Woolf

Q: What key skills or new literacies will today's students need in order to prepare them for higher education and for success in the future?

A: Students need to develop cultural awareness and relationship-building skills that help them work and learn with people from various backgrounds. They need to demonstrate initiative, a commitment to community and an ability to learn, influence and make a difference in the world around them.

On a more practical level, there's concern in the workplace and in post-secondary institutions, particularly universities, that students are graduating from high school without well-developed writing skills. Students also need communication and presentation skills, interpersonal skills, the ability to do research and to analyze and synthesize ideas, a capacity to problem solve and an understanding of how to create information from data, and knowledge from information. They also need to be curious.

As they head toward university, students need to develop the confidence to speak their mind, assert themselves, give an opinion and defend their position while being respectful of alternative viewpoints. They need to be able to promote those causes they believe in and move projects forward, but they also need to "play well" in the bigger sandbox of work life.

Q: How can schools, educators and society help them acquire these vital skills?

A: Young people need to be supported and encouraged by a range of adults around them, including their families, teachers and community leaders. These adults need to model open-mindedness, patience, curiosity and acceptance of new ideas and directions.

Some of the ways these can be demonstrated and taught are through a focus and emphasis on writing; active, participative and experiential learning; the use of technology to do research, solve problems, create and design; participation in international and cross-cultural experiences through study abroad programs or media (TV and video) to study abroad from home; teamwork; more peer learning, review and support; guest speakers in classrooms, such as parents and community members; and volunteer opportunities or community-based experiences.

—Daniel Woolf
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