Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Archive for May, 2010

Project: Tech Skills Needed for Child Care Career Path

Posted by durencls on May 27, 2010

OK, so, following up on our project idea – What Tech Skills ARE Needed for Low Skill Jobs? , here is what I’ve found out about the Child Care career path so far.  Bear in mind that this is *informal* research, based solely on information I obtained from Tennessee sources.  I’d LOVE to hear how this compares to other states’ perspectives.

Now, child care is only ranked 29th in the 30 fastest growing jobs 2008-2018 (see the chart), with 142,000 jobs expected to be created (that’s only 1,420 jobs/yr nationwide, or an avg of roughly 28 new jobs per state/yr ). But it is one that appears inviting to many women with low skills (even those without a HS diploma/GED). It is especially appealing to those with young children as most child care facilities provide reduced fees to employees.

 As stated in the project, we’ll compare the federal information with reality (in TN), discuss what tech skills are needed for Child Care Workers, and then we’ll look at the training and tech skills needed to progress along that ‘career path’  in TN. But first, a bit about what “child care” means in TN.

In TN, most child care facilites are licensed, evaluated and overseen by the Dept of Human Services. Exceptions include child care for less than 5 children, less than 3 days a week, or less than three hours a day (this is important later*). Licensed Child Care (for both pre and in-school children) includes both ‘home’ (5-13 children) and ‘center‘ based (13 or more children). Licensing and evaluation criteria differ between these two types. TN also has two types of evaluation – a ‘report card’ required for licensing, and a voluntary ‘Star report’ that measures program quality. (Three stars is the highest rating, and concerned parents look for more stars.) This is all important as it directly relates to training and tech skills required for employees.

So – let’s check on our basic assuptions: The BLS reports that Child Care workers (in general) require only short-term on-the-job training to start, and earn, on average, $10.90/hr.  Is this true in TN? YES

  • For a Center-based facility: there is NO minimum education requirement to start, but you must complete 18 hours of inservice training in the 1st year and 12 hours thereafter. Minimum wage to start is typical for those with NO experience or training. To attain 3 stars, however, the facility requires employees to have a HS diploma/GED, and prefers them to have some experience or training.
  • For a ‘Home’ based child care: there is NO minimum education requirement to start, but you must complete 4 hours of inservice training in the 1st year and 2 hours thereafter. You must also be able to obtain and fill all appropriate paperwork with the state for licensure. You will make whatever your center nets after expenses and taxes – likely in the $10-12/hr range. Employees of this type of center (if any) are typically part time, minimum wage with no training requirements to start.
  • If you want to provide child care in your home that does not require licensing,* there is also no minimum education to start, and you require NO training. To compete with licensed (and ‘Star’-ed) facilities, you’ll need to charge lower than the average rate for care – which is around $100-125/week per child. So at a max of $95 for each of 4 kids, that would be $350/wk gross or $9.50/hr maximum (minus expenses and likely under the table/unreported). If one or more of those children is your own, then you’re going to be earning less than minimum wage.

Ok then, what technology do starting child care workers need to be familar or skilled with now?

For center-based or home-based care: NONE.

No kidding. TN DHS actually *downgrades* early child care centers in the star program evaluation process if there are computers or televisions, etc. in the classrooms. From the Star evaluation document for early childhood: “TV/video viewing and computer use tend to be passive in comparison to active involvement with materials and people. The use of each should be confined to subject material that is age-appropriate and mentally stimulating. Time limits encourage more active learning. Participation should not be required.” (No mention of computers/television etc. is made for school-age child care.)

In addition, most in-home and smaller child care centers can manage all their business records on paper/ledgers. So other than routine use of basic plumbing and kitchen facilities, right now most child care workers, to start, do not need/have to interact with anything more complicated than a microwave, battery-powered toy, or a cordless phone. (Now ‘lesser’ child care centers may use televisions/DVD players, but few will invest in a computer to “occupy” kids if it will detract from their overall evaluation.)

How might this change in 10 years? At the very least, as business practices move more and more to digital format, those running home-based child care may have to have the ability to locate, download, and complete state forms via the web – on a desktop or hand-held computer.  While starting employees at center-based care centers may need to apply online, or complete employment tasks online, they need no actual tech skills beyond those for everyday living. As current child development research frowns on technology as too passive for use in early childcare, a change in this pedagogy would have to occur to change this requirement.

*Addendum 5/28/10 SusanWB points out that currently, the internet is a great resource for instructional ideas and materials, and those making use of that resource will likely get ahead faster in this career path (and likely HAVE to have this skill to get their Associates degree).  In the next 10 years, it is highly likely that Child Care workers will have to have the skills to access and use online resources for instruction – if not at start, then to move up at all on this career path.

Ok, so now let’s look at the Caereer Path/future for a starting Child Care worker. To get ahead in this field, work for higher quality care centers, or be able to set higher fees, you need at least a High School Diploma/GED, and to participate in more than the required amount of training per year.  Below lists a path you might take in this career (note that, overall, this is not a lucrative field of work – top end is going to be in the $50-60,000/yr range.)

  • Lead teacher – requires a 30 hour certification or degree in any topic (Associates or higher). No additional tech skills currently required.
  • Center Director – Either a) same as lead teacher PLUS 7 years experience, or b) Associates degree +4 yrs, or c) Bachelors degree +2 yrs. Computer use for business-related applications & communication recommended, but not currently required. Likely to be required in near future.
  • Owner/Multi-center Director – Same as Center Director only further experience, possibly additional business management training. Computer use for business-related applications & communication strongly recommended, and likely to be required in near future.
  • Regional or State level Child Care Evaluator/Consultant– Bachelor’s degree in Child Development plus experience. Computer use for communication and professional development tasks currently required. (Moving on from here to further state level administrative/management positions, or research in Child development, etc.).

Alternatively – if you were in a home-based care situtation, your career path would likely be either to join a center as a lead teacher, start a center, or move directly to director of a center as you cannot care for more than 13 children in your own home – thus capping possible profits.

Note that most TN DHS  training is currently all face to face, but that is likely to change, requiring online study skills/internet use for all employees – as all licensed care facility employees must have SOME professional development every year. In fact, given the child care issues many in this career might have, online/distance training could be a real boon.

So, in summary, for Child Care Workers:

  • NO High School Degree/GED or technology skills currently required to start (although slightly higher starting salaries/better working conditions/future possibilities if you possess these).
  • Pay at or around minimum wage to start.
  • Additional training required to move along the career path – certificate (common for most long-term employees), Associate’s Degree for management jobs, and Bachelor’s to reach comon top end of field.
  • Additional technology skills expected for all workers in the near future (online training tasks), and currently necessary to move into management/administration.

Resources consulted in this process:

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Posted in Job Skills, Meta-Skills, Projects, Skills 4 Low Skill Jobs?, Technology in the Workplace | 2 Comments »

Trends: Change in Phone Service

Posted by durencls on May 25, 2010

 Pew Research brought this to our attention:

Wireless Substitution: Preliminary results from the July-December 2009 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that one of every four American homes (24.5%) had only wireless telephones during the last half of 2009. In addition, one of every seven American homes (14.9%) had a landline yet received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones.

WOW – that’s almost 40% of households that are no longer depending on ‘landline’ or ‘wired’ telephone service!  Further details show demographic differences meaningful to the adult literacy education community:

  • Nearly half of adults aged 25-29 years (48.6%) lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • More than one-third of adults aged 18-24 or 30-34 (37.8% and 37.2%, respectively) lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Adults living in poverty (36.3%) and adults living near poverty (29.0%) were more likely than higher income adults (19.6%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Hispanic adults (30.4%) were more likely than non-Hispanic white adults (21.0%) or non-Hispanic black adults (25.0%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.

And this trend is in sharp increase! (see below)

So – why is this so important (and why is the National Center for Health Statistics involved in a cell phone survey)?

Many health surveys, political polls, and other research are conducted using random-digit-dial telephone surveys. Until recently, these surveys did not include wireless telephone numbers in their samples. Now, despite operational challenges, most major survey research organizations are including wireless telephone numbers when conducting random-digit-dial telephone surveys. If they did not, the exclusion of households with only wireless telephones (along with the small proportion of households that have no telephone service) could bias results.

Ahhhh, so this could greatly affect phone survey research results – especially amongst many folks considered part of the adult literacy education population.  We need to start asking, when we read research, if this was a landline only survey.

BUT this ALSO tells us that cell phones are likely MORE prevalent in adult education classrooms than in the typical population!  This survey also tells us, “Approximately 2.0% of households had no telephone service (neither wireless nor landline). ”  Wow – that’s low – so how many is that? “Nearly 4 million adults…”

Hmmm – OK, so now I want to know how that correlates to education level.  Our luck, most of them would be adult literacy education candidates….which means that the odds are your AE student has either no phone, or a cell phone.  Neither of which can be looked up in the phone book.  😉

Cell phone photo: CCC permission 2.0 photocapy

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Pace of Change, Technology In the Classroom | Leave a Comment »

Project:What Tech Skills ARE Needed for Low Skill Jobs?

Posted by durencls on May 21, 2010

So I did some more thinking about the “Is college necessary…” idea, and I had the following questions:

  • How good are the jobs that don’t need college? What do they pay? How desireable are they?”
  • What kind of technology  skills do these ‘no-college’ jobs require? (Both “hard tech” skills and tech-related meta-skills?)”
  • “Thinking about the current buzz phrase  ‘career pathways,’ what are the next steps up from these 30 fastest-growing jobs? What skills/training would you need to get ahead?”
  • “How accurate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ assessment of the training required for these jobs? How will the training requirements (or tech requirements) likely change in the next 10 years?”

Oh goody! A mini-research project! (Yes, I’m strange like that!)

So I started by taking a closer look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 30 occupations with the largest employment growth, 2008-18 document.  It was already pointed out that only 7/30 of those jobs required a Bachelor’s degree or higher and that 12 only required short-term on-the-job-training. (This would seem to validate the “college isn’t always necessary” opinion of before.)

Let’s take a look at those 12 “short-term on-the-job-training” jobs. How desireable do these look to you? And what do you think the pay rate is like?  The ‘career pathways’?:

  • Child care workers
  • Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
  • Home health aides
  • Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
  • Office clerks, general
  • Personal and home care aides
  • Receptionists and information clerks
  • Retail salespersons
  • Security guards
  • Teacher assistants
  • Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
  • Waiters and waitresses

Hmmmm…seems to me that many of  these are the jobs that our adult literacy education students are trying to get OUT of (if they are employed).  Low paying, boring or pretty grueling – not attractive at all. But I thought I should check – what is the current pay rate for truck drivers, anyway? I found the May 2009 wage data for these jobs (national averages, also from the BLS), and then I build my OWN comparison  chart. Take a moment to look this over (pdf format):

Comparison of salaries and training for the 30 occupations with the largest employment growth, 2008-18

I sorted this by training, using the code #s from the BLS’ Measures of Education Training (which, BTW, starts to answer the “how accurate is this info” question), and then within each training type, by average annual salary.  I also ranked the jobs by # of jobs predicted over the 10 year period – in essence  “who is growing the fastest?”

Looking this over, I was mildy surprised to see how much you could earn (again, on average nationally) at a job that requires only short-term, on-the-job-training.  Now I live in Tennessee, where cost of living is pretty low – 9th lowest overall, nationally – but several of these jobs are in the over $25,000 range annually and several of those with moderate-term on-the-job-training are in the over $30,000 range – higher than I expected.  Well, that’s a national average, and includes both entry level folks and those with many years…

I also noted, however, that many of these jobs are those targeted by “certificate programs” and “vocational training schools.”  This tells me that while you CAN get the job without training, it is likely *easier* to get it if you do have training.

But by now I am just WAY more interested in doing some further research – testing the “validity” of the BLS information against reality, and finding out what kinds of skills ARE needed in these jobs. And thus a PROJECT is born!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll research “reality” for several of these jobs* – tech skills needed, training needed, and even look at the ‘career path options’ and skills needed to “move up.” My plan is to research locally – interview folks I know in these professions, as well as online and post my findings for roughly one job category a week.  My current plan is to investigate these jobs from the list:

  • Child care workers
  • Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
  • Office clerks, general & Receptionists and information clerks
  • Personal and home care aides & Home health aides (as well as Nursing aides, LPNs, & RNs)
  • Teacher assistants (as well as Elementary school teachers)

Please feel free to chime in via comment or e-mail – add what you know about these or other professions on the list, and perhaps, collaboratively, we can produce something very useful for the field of adult education (if not the NATION!)

Next week – Child Care Workers.

*Please note that this will not be empirical research, but rather anecdotal/”light” research – for the purposes of discussion and/or inspiring more rigorous research projects.

Posted in Job Skills, Projects, Skills 4 Low Skill Jobs?, Technology in the Workplace | 1 Comment »

Measuring iCritical Thinking Skills

Posted by durencls on May 18, 2010

Today,  almost like we’d planned it, Twitter brought us this article announcing a new assessment tool from Certiport and Educational Testing Service (ETS) for measuring students’  ” …ability to think critically within technology-enabled academic and workplace environments.”

New test measures students’ digital literacy (from eSchoolNews)

Exactly what I just asked about in our most recent post!  So – never trusting a secondary source, I went to Certiport’s web site and read over their marketing materials on this new iCritical Thinking exam. They say:

  • This certification measures the ability to navigate, critically evaluate, and communicate digital information to solve problems on the job in real-life scenarios. 
  • the exam is suitable for students from high school (grades 10 – 12) through college, as well as for working adults.
  •  The iCritical Thinking certification exam is aligned with the nationally recognized ICT literacy standards and is endorsed by the Global Digital Literacy Council (GDLC). 
  • Other stuff: The exam takes about an hour, is written at about the 10th grade reading level, and can be used as a stand alone exam, or used as a capstone to other Certiport exams (of course).

Also interesting was this list of “tasks”/activities their material says is covered by the exam: 

  • Understand and articulate the scope of an information problem in order to facilitate the electronic search for information. [define the problem]
  • Collect and/or retrieve information in digital environments. Information sources might include web pages,databases, etc. [research and prioritize]
  • Judge whether digital information satisfies an information problem by determining authority, bias, timeliness, relevance, and other aspects of materials.
    [evaluate and analyze]
  • Organize digital information to help you or others find it later.
  • Interpret and represent information, using digital tools to synthesize,summarize, compare, and contrast information from multiple sources. [visual literacy, analyze, integrate]
  • Adapt, apply, design or construct information in digital environments. [create, innovate, wing it]
  • Disseminate information tailored to a particular audience in an effective digital format. [communicate effectively]
  • Asks students to integrate these technologies into the above tasks: E-mail, Instant Messaging, Bulletin Board Postings, Internet Browsing, Search Engines, Data Searches, File Management, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, & Graphics.

So, OK, on the one hand I’m all excited – I want to SEE it – review it (and maybe even take it!). Does it really do all it says? If so – well, that would be a pretty good start at measuring 21st century skills! 

On the other hand, I am skeptical – you have to be a fluent 10th grade level reader to take the test (about GED pass level) – so not so useful for our lower level adult literacy students attempting to get a job. Its also through Certiport, so its likely expensive. And it is brand new without a whole lot of user feedback.

Anyone out there tried it yet? Have anything to share?

Thanks to Debra Hargrove  for the link!  You can follow her on Twitter or see her work at  Florida TechNet.

Posted in Assessment, Changing the AE field, Job Skills, Meta-Skills | 2 Comments »

College Not Necessary for Success in 21st Century?

Posted by durencls on May 17, 2010


So, interesting/controversial article from the New York Times today(Thanks Margy!)

Plan B: Skip College 

Quotes from the article that caught my eye :

  • Perhaps no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years, according to the latest projections from the Department of Education. For college students who ranked among the bottom quarter of their high school classes, the numbers are even more stark: 80 percent will probably never get a bachelor’s degree or even a two-year associate’s degree. That can be a lot of tuition to pay, without a degree to show for it.
  •  

  • College degrees are simply not necessary for many jobs. Of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven* typically require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [* or higher, and note that most of these 30 are in the lowest paying categories, like retail and food service – http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t06.htm ]
  •  

  • “It is true that we need more nanosurgeons than we did 10 to 15 years ago, but the numbers are still relatively small compared to the numbers of nurses’ aides we’re going to need. We will need hundreds of thousands of them over the next decade.”  Professor Vedder, founder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a research nonprofit in Washington. (And much of their training, he added, might be feasible outside the college setting.) [note that of the jobs listed in the second bullet above, TWELVE require only “short-term on-the-job training”]
  •  

  • Leading economists are cited as suggesting that the US should, “…steer some students toward intensive, short-term vocational and career training, through expanded high school programs and corporate apprenticeships.” 
  •  

  •  In one 2008 survey of more than 2,000 businesses in Washington State, employers said entry-level workers appeared to be most deficient in being able to “solve problems and make decisions,” “resolve conflict and negotiate,” “cooperate with others” and “listen actively.” [Sound familiar?]
  •  

The article does go on to present the related issues of lowering expectations, discrimination, etc. implied in directing some away from four (or even 2) year colleges.

BUT, if employers are failing students for lacking the basics of how to behave and communicate in the office – critical skills for ANY task – much less a technological task, then these issues NEED to be addressed by Adult Literacy programs and embedded in that curriculum.

I may have missed it – can anyone tell me where, in this recent federal push for “career readiness,” do we find funding and support for vocational training? Apprenticeships? Internships? Short-term certificate programs? Intense on-the-job training?

Our current academic systems – Adult Literacy Education included, are measured for accountability by participant/student performance on academic-type standardized assessments.  These are not designed to measure skills like “solve problems and make decisions” “resolve conflict and negotiate,” “cooperate with others” and “listen actively.” Are these tools, then an effective measure of how well folks are being prepared for the workforce?

What can the field of adult literacy (or even K-12 education) do to balance the call for more and more students to enter 2 and 4 year colleges?  How can we BEST counsel and support students for “beyond the GED?”

Posted in Changing the AE field, Futurism, Job Skills, Meta-Skills | Leave a Comment »

Teens and Cell Phones – Implications for the Future

Posted by durencls on May 6, 2010

So in surfing last night, I stumbled across a posting I initially thought was redundant – “yeah, yeah, yeah, teens and cell phones, I know all this.”  The more I looked at it, and thought about it, however, the more implications and connections it had for the future and education.  

From Flowtown‘s marketing blog: “How Are Teens Using Their Cell Phones?  (based on Pew Research)

As we’ve said before, futurism – predicting the future – is hard, and many have really failed at it.  But as educators’ mission is to prepare students for the future, we need to at least try to align our instruction with what we think are the most reasonable future predictions.  Once source for these predictions is “generational research/theory” – particularly the study of the behaviors and affinities of younger, “up and coming” members of society – teenagers and young adults (MillenialsGeneration Z, etc.).

So what predictions can we glean from this one graphic developed from marketing research?

  • Cell phones – mobile, wireless communication is now the norm, and this trend will continue.  Although only 37% of teens’ phones have internet access, most futurists predict wireless mobile computing will become much more ubiquitous. M-learning is a current educational hot topic.
  • Texting (which is a form of writing – honest), is preferred over auditory use of cell phones by teens. This trend is being seen more and more in all age groups. Short quick written updates – instant messaging, tweets, status updates, texts, etc. are becoming a tool for building community, marketing, finding information, etc.
    • Reading implication: the ability to successfully navigate this flood of “short hand notes”  will become critical. Skimming and scanning text and visuals, as well as fast-paced decision-making and prioritization skills (what is worth my time?) will be skills needed for success. [Hmmm, note to self, explore this more in a later post…]
    • Writing implication: the ability to communicate clearly in an ultra-concise format that grabs readers’ attention will be a critical skill.
  • Increased use of visuals to process an ever growing pile of information. This blog regularly posts such “infographics,” and in fact, this type of visual representation of data is becoming more and more popular. Continuing the trend we see in USA today, people want to be able to view statistics and info “at a glance.”  Also note that, after texting, the vast majority of teens use cell phones for taking and sharing pictures. The ability to process information presented visually – pictures, graphs, video is and will be key to success in the workplace.
  • The need for skepticism – This visual is, remember, a marketing tool, created from marketing research, likely to further a particular agenda.  All representations of data contain bias, and some can even be deliberately misleading (or even incorrect) in what they imply or show.  To be successful in a more fast-paced, information heavy, visual world, people will the skills to critically evaluate what they see, hear, and read for validity, bias, and intent. They need to know not just HOW to read a graph, but how the data connects to it, ways it can be visually manipulated, etc. They need to be critical consumers of visually presented data.

Wow.  All that in a graphic that most folks will look at for less than 2 minutes (if even that).

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Futurism, Meta-Skills | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Technology Applied to Unintended Uses

Posted by wrmcnutt on May 3, 2010

Dear AbbyThere was an interesting note in Dear Abby yesterday (4/29/2010).  The writer wanted to share an idea to get her children to read more.  Like many parents, “Proud Parents” would prefer their children to read.  The children preferred to watch more television.  The compromise that was reached was to turn off the audio on most programming, and allow the children to watch it only if they were willing to read the closed-captioning.

Closed Captioning

Closed Captioning

The result of this policy is that the childrens’ reading scores have greatly improved and the parents get more quiet time when the TV is on in the family room.  Abby rightly points out that closed-captioning, while intended for folks with disabilities, is a wonderful aid to people trying to develop ESOL skills.  I think that this technology would also be useful to adult learners working on conventional literacy issues.

Some teaching ideas/notes:

  • While many of you may have noted this before, adult learners may need some actual training on how to turn on closed captioning, and practice at doing so – you can provide this in the classroom.
  • Also note that you can have closed captioning on at the same time as the audio – great for those who are hard of hearing – and ESOL learners, and folks who are very beginning readers.
  • Even with the sound off, the visuals partnered along with the words on the screen can give struggling readers a boost – aiding in decoding and comprehension (building visual literacy?).
  • Another source of captioned materials – many YouTube videos are in another language and subtitled (see Medieval Tech Support!).
  • This again is a tool for practice, and should be partnered along with other reading instruction and practice activities in other formats – like online text, book text, e-mail, etc.

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Teaching Ideas | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »