Four Essential Skills for the Future

For the reader in a hurry: We should teach search, literacy, netiquette, and publishing on the web, and do it in this order. For the rest, read on…


At a conference I recently attended a keynote speaker asked the +1000 participant audience a question: which is more relevant a skill in the future, googling or math? First to raise their hands were the ones who thought googling is more important. I belonged in the second group, a minority.

If I were asked the same question now, after I’ve had time to reflect, I wouldn’t raise my hand at all. Or alternatively for both. You see, it is comparing apples and oranges.

This discussion is related to the observation that we have massive amounts of information and computation power at our fingertips. Therefore trying to memorize factoids or teach mental calculation isn’t necessarily the most relevant education. (I think it never was, but that’s not the point here.)

Search is, I think, a very essential skill of today and the future. Google’s algorithm is doing an excellent job in retrieving the information we need, nowadays often even in the right context. However, we still have to know how to do search right. What are the most suitable keywords, how to combine them, what to exclude, etc. This calls for logical/ mathematical thinking. In a way you need math to do advanced search.

After searching, the results have to be evaluated. Literacy is the second must-have skill. What to trust, who to trust? Can the person who created the web resource you are now looking at expected to be a) knowledgeable enough and b) acting benevolently?

Web users should act like “mini journalists”, trying to check whether the resource they are acting upon is trustworthy. The usual tricks apply: what is the track record of the resource creator and are there any other resources transmitting the same message?

Web is a bidirectional medium. After finding a resource, you often interact with it or with other people around it. This is what social media is all about. Someone shares a piece of content and then others discuss or otherwise enrich it.

So, now you are already interacting. This calls for the third skill: not making an ass of yourself. This is netiquette. You should act nicely, encourage rather than discourage others, not post offending content, etc.

This can create a virtuous circle: the more encouraging and positive content you post, the more you can expect the same from others. You shouldn’t present yourself as a suck-up or too cheesy, mind. Keep it real and honest.

The next step after discussing around existing web resources: create the web yourself. In the lack of a better word (help, anyone?), I call it publishing. It has to do with diverse set of activities like programming, design, and blogging.

Now you find the content you need, are able to evaluate its trustworthiness, say something smart about it, and even create content yourself. You’re good to go!

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