The Way We’ll Work

by Katherine Prince on December 10, 2014

Business peopleI recently had the pleasure of sharing my thoughts about the future of work for a Columbus Business First article, “Columbus 2044 – Plenty of singles, small homes, and jobs none of us has imagined.” You might ask why I’m talking to a reporter about the future of work when my work focuses on the future of learning. But it’s difficult to impossible to consider future possibilities for education without also taking into account the world in which people will be working.

As our Forecast 3.0 highlights, it’s not just a question of what jobs people might or might not be doing. Certainly there are profound questions about the extent to which automation will affect the employment landscape. When a restaurant can be staffed entirely by robots and the rise of autonomous vehicles promises to change the delivery and transportation industries, new sectors of the economy could be shaken or reconfigured by new technologies. It’s not just relatively low-level jobs at stake; McKinsey Quarterly projects that artificial intelligence could significantly change the role of senior-level executives given rapid advances in machine learning.

Such changes reflect just part of the changing nature of work. Our 10-year forecast also projects a decline in full-time employment as we are used to thinking about it. With ad hoc employment on the rise through networks such as ODesk, more people could find themselves weaving together mosaic careers comprised of multiple gigs, some of them short-term, instead of working primarily or only for one organization. To work in such a world, we’ll need new skills such as global networking and personal brand management. I don’t feel prepared to navigate this kind of employment structure.

In these and other ways, our relationships with institutions are changing, both in the world of work and across the education landscape. PSFK Labs expects companies to flux constantly, shifting staffing and physical workplaces to align capacity with demand and emphasizing collaboration, knowledge flows, and constant learning. Similarly, The Aspen Institute projects that organizations with increasingly move from hierarchies to networks and that many of the skills associated with success in a more networked work environment will be reflect a disposition toward dealing effectively with change.

Given such changes in the world of work, many of us could find ourselves choosing or being forced to pursue continuous career readiness. Along with other forces of change, that employment climate could lead to new educational needs and new ways of interacting with educational institutions, especially for adult learners (see The Economist’s discussion of how higher education is changing). As my colleague Jason Swanson is exploring in a paper on the future of credentialing that’s due out in the new year, changes in the world of work could drive what it means not just to learn new skills but also to demonstrate mastery in authenticated ways.

As I told Columbus Business First, working differently will require learning differently. Our current approach to education doesn’t reflect the coming world of work. While career readiness is only one outcome of an effective education, I’m hoping that we can create a learning ecosystem capable of flexing with the fluid future of work.

For more on the future of Columbus, see the Columbus Business First companion article, “Columbus 2044: Light rail, public art, NBA, 89-year-old mayor?”



Over the past few years, competency education in K-12 has evolved from a catch phrase, to a compelling concept, to a serious reform strategy. Even skeptics are struck by its staying power. But despite this momentum, a major roadblock lies ahead. The teachers and principals who will be asked to lead this transformation are not prepared to do so. How can we expect these educators to succeed when their preparation programs, credentialing policies, professional development programs, and evaluation systems are all captive to traditional, 20th century values?

Fortunately, we have an answer. Recently, KnowledgeWorks and iNACOL released Laying the Foundation for Competency Education: A Policy Guide for the Next Generation Educator Workforce,  authored by myself and my brilliant collaborator, Maria Worthen of iNACOL. You may remember that the two of us collaborated on another competency-education policy guide earlier this year focused on accountability, assessment, supports and interventions, and data systems. (You can access that here). While each of these issues is important, the transition to a competency-based K-12 system must begin with the education workforce.

This recent publication counters the nation’s siloed educator preparation and development systems with a seamless continuum of support that aligns to professional competencies and enables educators to deepen their practice as they evolve in their profession.

competency continuum

The paper includes vision statements, policy barriers, state and federal policy solutions, and case studies of early adopters who have begun to make the vision a reality. We look forward to sharing these ideas with educators and the institutions, organizations, and policymakers committed to the preparation and development of our teaching force.

Our educators deserve the same highly personalized learning experience that we hope to one day provide for every student.



Exploring Possibilities for Districts in Texas

by Katherine Prince December 3, 2014

With my colleagues Jesse Moyer and Jason Swanson, I’m collaborating with the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) to involve their members in exploring how they might move from future-oriented vision to action through a “Personalizing Learning for Future-Ready Students” symposium. Our first session focused on extending their already extensive exploration of school transformation and […]

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Micro-Credentials Today, Employer-Issued Credentials Tomorrow?

by Jason Swanson November 24, 2014

Credentials act as third-party verification of skills and knowledge. They are important in helping to determine the best fit for a role, task or job. Education is one of the traditional paths toward earning credentials, acting as a symbol of acquired knowledge, a motivator and a means to enter and navigate the employment sector. I’m […]

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A menu of opportunities: Education with your own flavor

by Mary Kenkel November 20, 2014

Tall, caramel macchiato topped with a half inch of foam. Grande iced peppermint mocha with whip and chocolate drizzle. Venti soy chai tea with a shot of espresso. Starbucks baristas whip up hundreds of thousands of drinks every day, specially ordered by and made for unique customers. Each of us is able to choose the exact […]

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Reading List: Cold Weather Edition

by Sarah Jenkins November 12, 2014

The best thing about winter? It is once again socially acceptable to stay home, sprawl on the couch, and read the weekend away. Now that the weather has finally decided to turn itself towards winter, reading lists are a must. I’ve only just begun to follow the world of education non-fiction, but after devouring a […]

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