Education and the city of the future


Education needs to change. The job market is competitive and in many sectors there continues to be a shortage of high-skilled applicants in the candidate pool. Cities nationwide are now charged to prepare their students for this 21st century economy. To do this, advanced technology must to be adopted;, learning must to expand beyond the doors of the classroom and teaching must evolve to meet the needs of each and every student through individualized learning programs.

Finding and implementing the right tools, creating innovative programs and preparing young people for an increasingly competitive tomorrow is something that needs to start today. Here’s how city and school leaders can begin this transformation:

Re-assess what students need to learn

To prepare students for the future job market, you need to determine what skills will be required of them tomorrow. To be positioned to understand where businesses are heading school leaders must engage local and national business leaders in a conversation about their businesses vision and direction. Equipped with that understanding, it will be easier to determine and tailor curricula that align with tomorrow’s job market. So ask yourself the following:

  • What do your students need to be successful tomorrow?
  • What foundational elements are needed to be place to build a student’s capabilities over time?
  • Which programs and fields of study are “up and coming” in the job market?
  • Are there partnering opportunities with local institutions that enable the creation of career-specific academies?

Seek opportunities to broaden your course selection

It’s hard for one district to offer everything for their students, both financially and operationally. You may not have the funding, the staffing, or the physical space to offer hundreds of courses in your schools, but other cities may be able to provide some classes for you.

Schools can collaborate or even regionalize to offer more unique and advanced placement courses for students. Local businesses may offer internships or help to support the creation of academies that can produce the kinds of individuals needed to fill critical jobs that those businesses may require to sustain growth and profitability. The discussion can begin as follows:

  • What programs are missing in your School District? (E.g. Engineering, entrepreneurship) Which school districts are already offering the courses you desire and how can you collaborate?
  • Are there companies willing to establish internship programs or tie themselves to specialized academies within your City?
  • Do you have the technologies necessary to collaborate? (E.g. cloud technologies)

Optimize your school schedule

As technologies continues to develop, learning is expanding beyond the walls of the classroom. Mobile learning, online education, and cloud technologies are all transitioning the classroom from textbooks and desks to tablets and learning from anywhere at any time. “Snow days” may soon be a thing of the past because students can be taught in their own homes. Consider the following:

  • What is the optimal school schedule for your students?
  • What type of schedule is financially optimal for your district? (E.g., Busing, afterschool programs)
  • How can your district fully engage with students and allow for continuous learning even while students are not in the building?

Become a tech-savvy school

Forget the chalk, schools across the country are abandoning traditional teaching methods and placing technology directly in the students’ hands. New methodologies like “Flipped Learning” are replacing traditional teaching methods. This means less in-classroom lecturing. Lessons are now administered via video, webcasts, and podcasts for at home learning, leaving class time for problem-solving and practical work, allowing teachers to provide more individualized attention and guidance to students. Furthermore, software can now handle the “back office” work (e.g. calculating grades, test scores, reports), giving the instructor more time to teach.

Additionally, social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) are increasingly being adopted to ensure that even the shyest of students can have a “voice” in class. Consider the following:

  • What technology tools does your School District need?
  • Which technology initiatives can your District implement today for little to no cost? (e.g. webpages, Facebook, Twitter)
  • In which areas are your students limited due to a lack of technology?
  • Are there alternative funding sources available? (State and federal grants, etc.)
  • What types of technologies will work best in your District? (Smartphones, tablets, Smart Boards, etc.)

Prepare your staff

It’s important to remember that while new students enter your district each year and for the foreseeable future, your staff became first certified in the past. And while your students were born into a naturally tech-savvy generation, your teachers may not have been. Teachers and students alike both require continuous training and learning. Your City needs to be sure that the educational professionals in your community are not left behind as you focus on preparing your students for the future. Be sure to consider:

  • Do your teachers have the necessary resources to teach for the future? (appropriate pay, technologies, classroom training)
  • Are staff fully trained and comfortable using the technologies you have in place or plan to implement?

In closing

If your City strives to produce top-performing students, it needs to continuously evolve its delivery of education. New methodologies and technologies are challenging the traditional paradigms of teaching and learning. To bring the future closer to reality, your City must think “outside of the box” to strategically find ways to educate and develop your students so that they are prepared to contribute to the City of the Future.

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The City of the Future

Lindsey Donato
Lindsey Donato

Lindsey Donato, PMP is a senior consultant at BlumShapiro Consulting. She works with municipalities, school districts, and private businesses seeking to streamline operations, improve efficiencies and plan for the future.

Curated by our regular contributor, James M. Kerr, the City of the Future is a nine-part series developed with the team at BlumShapiro intended to contribute to the thinking and management theory that underpins the transformational changes already taking shape in across towns and cities around the globe.