During last year’s Xynteo Exchange/Norway, Verizon hosted an open innovation Studio that brought together a diverse group of leaders and practitioners to investigate societal problems that connectivity can help address.
Among the topics explored was how we might modernise education to equip children with the skills they need to survive and thrive in the rapidly evolving future of work.
This resulted in the concept “Connecting kids for learning” developed by Xiaolu Zhang-Coenen, Learning Advisor in Senior Leadership Development at Shell, and Oslo-based primary school teacher Øistein Christoffersen. When this unconventional duo met during the Xynteo Exchange 2018, they found common ground from two very different perspectives, and developed the idea of coaching primary school children to equip them with the human skills they need in an increasingly automated, digitally-enabled world.
With today’s speed of technological advance, it’s estimated that one-third of the skills important in today’s job market is likely to become irrelevant within five years. Christoffersen recognised the challenges that students and teachers face in preparing for this future, and Zhang-Coenen recognised the capabilities gap from her work in executive development.
“While tech makes us more connected, human connectivity is on the decline. What if we could teach children to interact effectively with each other as a core skill? We coach senior leaders these behaviours, but we don’t teach children this”, Zhang-Coenen says.
Christoffersen stresses the need to update our approach to education, that extends learning beyond traditional knowledge-based skills. He suggests, “children first need to experience psychological safety, and then be encouraged to develop human skills such as empathy, collaboration and innovation”, to be better equipped for the future of work.
In the year after the Exchange, Zhang-Coenen and Christoffersen have continued to work on the concept. They have developed a framework to organise tools, curriculum, and training guides that build creativity, collaboration and coaching skills for students, teachers and parents. The building blocks are in place, and now the pair are seeking to engage other like-minded educators and innovators to advance this concept.
Beyond their collaborative efforts, a striking impression is the warm friendship and mutual respect that Zhang-Coenen and Christoffersen have developed since first meeting.
Zhang-Coenen highlights the value of bringing together a diverse group of people from different industries, companies and backgrounds, to share perspectives and ideas at the Xynteo Exchange and collaboratively innovate to create societal impact.
“Øistein’s experiences as a teacher and reflections on the challenges his students struggle with, were key to identifying an intervention. Without the Xynteo Exchange, I would never have met a primary teacher from Oslo. When you bring passionate people together, impact can happen!”
“The trust and the human connection that we were able to develop at the start of the Exchange were so important to making these breakthroughs. The experience, and the support from Xiaolu, have influenced my thinking and my career choices so that I can influence the system more effectively,” Christoffersen adds.
As we move closer to this year’s Xynteo Exchange, we’re thrilled to see that the outcomes of last year are progressing into concepts with potential to create positive impact.