CUSD aims to prepare for a robot future - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

CUSD aims to prepare for a robot future

February 14th, 2022 development
CUSD aims to prepare for a robot future

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Officials played a three-minute video at a recent Chandler Unified School District Governing Board meeting titled” he Future of Work.”

It showed houses being built, cars being driven, cows being milked, packages being delivered and fields being plowed.

What it did not show were any people doing those jobs.

The video spoke about how robots are moving into new fields.

The Washington Post’s robot reporter wrote 850 stories last year. The video claims an artificial intelligence program is a better therapist than a human one. Another claim is that robotic surgeons are more accurate than even the most skilled doctors. And techs are working on AI programs to replace human lawyers.

“The first time we’ve seen it, and we worked with people who we’re showing this video of future jobs, most of the people in the room said, ‘This is scary, are we ready?’” said Dr. Wendy Nance, district assistant superintendent.

Nance showed the video as part of her presentation on the portrait of a graduate.

The name may change to “portrait of a learner,” Nance said, because district officials want to look at performance at all grade levels, not just the latter years.

But the goal is the same: Over the next four months they will look for ways to help CUSD students be better prepared for the world they will enter once they graduate.

And it’s looking like a world where robots are doing many of the jobs people do today.

Superintendent Frank Narducci said the core mission will remain the same for CUSD, making sure students read, write and do math. But they want to find what other skills they will need and how can the district better prepare them. In this process they are calling those competencies and the goal is to reach a consensus on seven for CUSD.

The district is partnering with a nonprofit, Battelle for Kids, to do this project. Valerie Greenhill, a vice president at Battelle, said each district comes up with something a little different.

“Every community tackles those questions a little differently because every community is different,” Greenhill said. “There are some competencies that we see more often, but I have not seen two that are identical yet.”

Critical thinking would be one that is quite common. Greenhill said one that she is starting to see more and more lately is empathy.

To figure that what the seven competencies will be for CUSD, Nance is putting together a group of 100 people that will meet four times over the next four months.

They will comprise 40 people who are in the district, 40 people who are outside of it, and 20 current students. The outsiders will come from a variety of backgrounds, including the faith community, business, higher education, social service agencies, and policy makers.

The insiders will include educators, families, school leaders and district leaders and the school board. Nance said they’ve already started selecting the 100 and invitations for the first meeting will go out by the first week of February.

So what will the jobs of the future look like?

“I don’t know if we know what they’re going to look like,” Nance said. “Some are obviously going to have to be in the technology world.”

“I think that’s the whole point of this, it’s about the learning process, not necessarily the content because it changes so fast,” said Colleen Flannery, the district’s director of technology services.

The first meeting will focus on how the world has changed and the implications for students. The topic of the second meeting is a discussion on the competencies students will need to thrive today and tomorrow.

The third meeting plans to identify and contextualize the competencies that should be a shared, local vision for our community’s portrait. The final meeting in May focuses on how to make what they envision for future students a reality.

As part of this new plan, the district hopes to give them skills that will better prepare them for the future. They include critical thinking, adaptability, growth mindset and empathy.

Nance said during her presentation that CUSD wants to help students be ready when it’s time for them to make a choice after graduating high school. Do they enroll in higher learning? Join the working force and skip college? Or enlist in the military?

When they get there, they may find robots teaching college courses, or unclogging drains or repairing HVAC units, or even fighting the nation’s wars. CUSD officials are hoping this process will prepare students for whatever the world looks like 20 years from now.