What Does College and Career Readiness Mean Now in the Shift to Digital Learning?

Back in the 20th century–you know, just yesterday and also a lifetime ago?–“college readiness” and “career readiness” were two fairly distinct things. They defined secondary school life by sending some kids down one path and some down another, and those paths rarely crossed.
If students on the college track needed skills to help them have successful careers they would get those on the job, long after they’d left K-12 and finished the standard four years of college. If career-track (often just a prettier way of saying “vocational”) students aspired to post-secondary education, they might be encouraged to check out the local community college.
And nobody gave a serious thought to any of this much before ninth grade; parents might come talk about their jobs to elementary classrooms, and good middle schools tried to get a jump on Algebra so their graduates could hit the college prep track running, but college and career readiness was pretty much a high school thing.
Take all of that and throw it in a blender. Toss in a few hard chunks of economic reality, sprinkle in some global truths, add a triple-shot of technology and hit 16–that’s right, the highest blender speed of all. What have you got? College and career readiness as it must be for our students today.

It’s a Brand New World

We know that in this new world of ours, it’s damned hard to find family-supporting work with just a high school diploma, so every single one of our students needs post-secondary education. But we also know that the cost of conventional college can make pursuing that education a life-thwarting burden for too many kids. That’s why new options for getting to paid work sooner are gaining in appeal.
We also know that even the most highly skilled and tightly focused of our young people will need to retool, adapt and restart many times over the span of their lives; adaptability is key. And frankly, students sense this. What we holdovers from the 20th century see as digitally induced shortness of attention–“My girl power Vine is trending right now, there’s a fresh Fetty Wap remix on my phone, and you want me to read a chapter on the Civil War, in a book?”–might actually be savvy preparation for the road ahead.
As educators, we can embrace the new imperatives of college and career readiness by:

Exhilarating? Terrifying? A spicy mix of both? Welcome to the “Shift to Digital–College and Career Readiness” edition.
Mickey Revenaugh is a co-founder of Connections Education, the director of New School Models for Pearson Global Schools and board chair of International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). Follower her on Twitter: @mickeyrevenaugh.

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