Using Digital Tools to Teach Soft Skills
When thinking about the requirements of a solid education, most people focus on the standard subjects such as reading and writing. But employers are increasingly asking for new hires who are proficient in soft skills. While there is no one universally accepted definition of “soft skills,” the basic idea is simple: soft skills are all of the non-academic skills that one needs to be successful on the job. And some of the newer educational reform efforts have recognized that skills such as flexibility, adaptation, leadership, and productivity need to be explicitly taught in schools in order for students to develop the soft skills that they will need to succeed on the job.
Judicious use of digital tools can help in the effort to teach soft skills. For example, many digital platforms encourage student collaboration and thus give students the opportunity to practice working together. Students creating a digital mind map as a learning product or jointly writing a case study in a Google doc will have opportunities to refine their skills at working together.
Time management and productivity is a challenge for many people in the digital age—it is almost always the case that there is something on social media that is more interesting than the document that you are supposed to be reading, and it is always just one click away. But the temptations that digital tools create can sometimes be solved by digital tools, and students (and adults) can learn to self-regulate through time management and productivity tools that are freely available.
Most educators who have attempted to infuse their instructional activities with edtech have learned the hard way that things do not always go according to plan. But wise educators will turn this into a learning opportunity: the inevitable challenges to getting technology to work properly can become a powerful lesson on adaptability and flexibility that will help students develop these soft skills.
Another crucial soft skill is open-mindedness. Edtech tools that encourage students to think outside of the box can be very helpful in developing this key skill. There are many programs and platforms that make it easy for classrooms to be linked to other classrooms in other countries for collaborative projects, and this is exactly the kind of experience that will help students learn to think more broadly.
In short, the need for soft skills isn’t going away—if anything, these skills will become more important in an increasingly-digital workspace.