Leveraging Digital Tools to Teach Soft Skills
When thinking about the requirements of a good education, many people focus on standard subjects such as reading and writing, and math. But employers are asking for new hires who are proficient in soft skills. Though there is no widely accepted definition of “soft skills,” the basic concept is easy: soft skills are the non-academic skills that one needs to succeed on the job and in life. Some of the newer educational reform efforts have recognized that skills such as flexibility and productivity need to be explicitly taught in schools for learners to develop the soft skills they will need to succeed in work and in life.
Prudent use of digital tools can help in the effort to teach soft skills. For example, most digital platforms encourage learner collaboration and thus allow learners to practice working together. Learners creating a digital mind map as a learning tool or collaborating to write a case study in a Google doc will have chances to refine their skills at working together.
Time management is a challenge for most people in the digital age, and it is always the case that there is something on Netflix that is more interesting than the document you are supposed to be reading. It is always just one click away. But the temptations that digital tools make can sometimes be solved by digital tools, and learners can learn to self-regulate through productivity tools that are freely available.
Many educators who have attempted to infuse their instructional activities with education technology have learned the hard way that things do not always go as you planned them. Wise educators will turn this bump in the road into a learning opportunity: the challenges of getting the tech to work properly can become an influential lesson that will help learners develop these soft skills.
Another crucial soft skill is open-mindedness. Education technology tools that encourage learners to think outside of the box can be very helpful in developing this key skill. Most programs and platforms make it easy for classrooms to be linked to other classrooms in other countries for collaborative projects. This is the type of experience that will help learners learn to think more broadly.
The need for soft skills isn’t going away; these skills will become more important in an increasingly digital workspace.