It’s hard to find an education futurist who doesn’t mention how young people will need excellent communication skills to thrive in the future they will inhabit. Rarely, however, do these wise thinkers sketch out what that communication, when our students are set loose from their schooling and ready to take on the world, will look like.
I believe it will look a lot like status updates, video commentaries, open letters to the world, and personally curated portfolios or portals. We can quibble about whether or not our communications will use video or text or, more than likely, some combination of those media, whether they will be private or public, whether they will be long or short; still, in a word, our medium for sharing ideas and information and communicating about our lives will look like blogging.
Where We’re Going…
The Verge suggests that our communications will be in the form of a multi-faceted online presence, consisting of various portals or channels for communicating with the different audience pools in our lives. We might have a “work” portal, for example, or a “leisure” portal, or multiple channels, like a personal broadcasting network, to communicate with the various parts of our lives. Newsweek recently published an article about brain-to-brain communications, something like emailing our brainwaves, though we may need to improve our ability to think in coherent sentences in that case.
Similarly, experts polled by The Next Web postulate that our communications may involve think-to-touch screen connections, as well as new ways to crowd-source information and ideas. Our communications will be Open with a capital “O” in our increasingly transparent culture, requiring us to be more vulnerable in both the positive and negative senses of the word. As always our attention to the importance of context in our communications will be paramount as we learn to select the right tools to deliver the right message for the right audience. Tessa Sterkenburg sums up her article on the future of communication this way:
What we want is less noise, more context, ease of use, ease of access and the certainty that our listeners understand the message. We’d like our messages to end up with the right person, without governments, corporations or cyber-criminals peeking at information that isn’t meant for them. We’d even like to spur people into action. We have always used communication to convince or even make other people do what we want. Improved communication technologies help us to do that quicker and on a larger scale, hugely influencing the next divide between the haves and the have-nots.
It’s a Blog World, After All
Evolving into personalized broadcasting networks will require a tool that is flexible enough to adapt to multiple needs. Because the blog is basically a platform for sharing ideas, observations, or information in the form of an essay, the most elastic of literary genres, it will allow us to shape our communications in different ways depending on the context. Because the blog — or it’s miniature form, the micro-blog (or tweet, as we generically call them these days) — can easily blend with other media in the form of video, pictures, infographics, or audio — it can expand to embrace the particular advantages of each format, ultimately creating a new, individualized medium with each message. As professionals, we will share data and analysis on blogs. As creators, we will express ourselves on blogs. As learners, we will share our evolving thinking and growth on blogs. As human beings, we will share our stories on blogs.
The Skills That Matter
If the blog and the micro-blog will form the basis of our future communications, what are the skills that matter most?
- Crafting clear, even elegant sentences
- Using language in original ways to express a unique vision or perspective
- Understanding our various audiences and adapting our voice accordingly
- Organizing thoughts into a meaningful structure
- Building a case or argument
- Using examples to illustrate a concept
- Telling a story
- Thinking “out loud”
- Blending and using media in meaningful ways
- Script-writing and video production
- Photography and photojournalism
- “Public” speaking using media and online tools — both live and recorded
- Researching well to link
- Cataloging and tagging
- Making connections and building community online
- Being open, honest, and transparent
- Commenting meaningfully to add to the conversation
- Respecting others and their intellectual property
- Constantly learning, individually and in concert with others
- Curating our evolving selves
Teachers may stand up and do a happy dance when they see many of the skills listed here. But not so fast. I challenge today’s educators to question whether their student writers are allowed — or even encouraged — to sample the range of communications the future will ask of us. The tired old box of the five-paragraph essay is just not enough any more.
Communicating Now and for the Future
Digital ethnographer Michael Wesch tells us, quite insightfully, that “media mediate relationships” and so they “change relationships.” If we can teach today’s students, through blogging, to experiment with all the ways a blog can reach out to and engage an audience, then we will have prepared them for the future.
I am reminded that the word essay has two meanings, and one of them is “to attempt” or “to try.” I might take that definition a step further and add that to essay, at least in the medium of blogging, means “to explore.” In our communications of the future, we will blog to explore our relationships with others and with the world.
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