The Re-Working of Work.

We are so lucky in the Early Years. We have a passport for change: Enabling Environments. It’s been in print from Development Matters 2012 and it means we are allowed to make changes that enhance the learning in our settings. Here’s what Development Matters says about Enabling Environments:

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It is an overarching principle which is still present in Early Years Outcomes, 2014, and we must hold on to this tightly with both hands because we are allowed to decide what an enabling environment looks like for the children that we teach every day! This post explores how I am using Future Work Skills 2020 to enable learning in my early years environment.

I first saw The Future Work Skills 2020 at the Apple Leadership Summit in 2015. The paper was published  in 2011 by the Institute for the Future and comes with a useful visual to summarise the model. Here’s an introduction to the report from the IFTF website:

The Re-working of “Work”

Global connectivity, smart machines, and new media are just some of the drivers reshaping how we think about work, what constitutes work, and the skills we will need to be productive contributors in the future. This report analyzes key drivers that will reshape the landscape of work and identifies key work skills needed in the next 10 years. It does not consider what will be the jobs of the future. Many studies have tried to predict specific job categories and labor requirements. Consistently over the years, however, it has been shown that such predictions are difficult and many of the past predictions have been proven wrong. Rather than focusing on future jobs, this report looks at future work skills—proficiencies and abilities required across different jobs and work settings.

You can download the full report here.


This report has stayed with me for 2 years now and I often look at my planning and practice, evaluating how I am not only giving opportunities for these skills, but how I am letting children demonstrate them. It’s more than giving children chance to use computers, work collaboratively and be resilient. This model should be the way we are working. I ask myself, do these Disruptive Drivers link my lessons together and let children practise these Key Skills needed in a future work place?

Before I met this report, I always turned to the SAMR model as a way of evaluating how I used technology in my lessons. Common Sense Media provide a video to easily understand SAMR here and this is how they summarise the model:


“Dr. Ruben Puentedura developed the SAMR model as a way for teachers to evaluate how they are incorporating technology into their instructional practice. You can use SAMR to reflect upon how you are integrating technology into your classroom. Is it an act of Substitution? Augmentation? Modification? Or Redefinition?”

With this model, I always looked at individual activities. How is technology modifying or redefining the outcomes of this lesson? It’s a useful model to help teachers push their use of technology further, aiming to reach ‘above the line’. With the SAMR model I have always evaluated lessons in isolation. With Future Work Skills 2020, I now look across lessons. How are the Disruptive Drivers impacting on the Key Skills being taught in my setting?

Are these Disruptive Drivers and Key Skills present in Early Years?

There are lots of big words in Future Work Skills 2020 and they don’t sound like the friendly language of the documents we rely on daily, like Development Matters and Early Years Outcomes. It’s taken me a long time to see past the spikes of the Disruptive Drivers and how they have developed Key Skills for learning. By focusing on the Key Skills, I am stepping children towards these Disruptive Drivers which are impacting on their future work skills (even though it is these Disruptive Drivers causing these Key Skills to exist!).



Two Key Skills: ‘Design Mindset’ & ‘Visual Collaboration’.

These two Key Skills may relate to the  40-60 month statements in ‘Exploring Using Media and Materials’ from Early Years Outcomes. Traditionally, I would encourage children to design with junk model resources. Then test their model in their play and evaluate it. I would ask questions like:

  • “Did it move like you wanted?”
  • “Do any pieces need different joins or fixings?”
  • “How did it look and feel when you used it?”.


With ‘Computational World’ and ‘Superstructured Organisations’ driving disruption, how am I putting these Key Skills at the front and centre of this lesson? In the kind of junk model activity I described, the focus is to get the first model built and to use it. Then have a discussion about it, which is not recorded, it is discussed and gone until next time.

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 11.32.59.pngIn this activity I have let the ‘Rise of Smart Machines and Systems’ Disruptive Driver put technology in to the hands of my young learners and focus them on the ‘Design Mindset’ Key Skill of ‘Superorganised Structures’ and the ‘Computational World’.

This slowed down the design process for building a wheeled toy for Baby Bear’s birthday. I offered the children chance to design their wheeled toy with paper, pencil and crayon or with Book Creator on iPad.

Here you can see 4 year olds sketching out their design. In my modelled teach I explained that a designer would use a pencil outline and colour it in. I also shared the idea that some designers use computers to aid their design, whilst others will use technical drawing materials. In Book Creator, children are able to describe their design idea using the voice recorder, recording their design thinking as part of their work.

In SAMR, this modified the task outcome. With paper and pencil, this would be written and the outcome is controlled by the child’s ability to communicate their complex ideas in written language. Redefining this task means that, in this individual activity, the voice recording tool of Book Creator gives more information from the child and writing can be used at the child’s own ability and practise that writing skill independently.

What happens next is where Future Work Skills 2020 disrupts learning! img_7656

Children collected materials that they might use after describing their ideas on Book Creator. They used them in loose parts first, photographed the pieces and added images of what they might use to their design page. We now have a multi-modal piece of design thinking.

During the practical design work, children journaled their processes, taking photographs of what worked in their designing. These photographs went in to their page on Book Creator. The activity to make a wheeled toy for Baby Bear’s birthday was disrupted by ‘The Superstructured Organisation’. The children ‘value the creation process’ here. It was more than finishing the model to use it and have a discussion about the finished piece. Children reflected on the design process throughout, and they could record that thinking on their iPad in this new form of social technology. This is one example of how the rise of smart machines and systems are disrupting design thinking in my classroom.

The Globally-Connected World

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I have written lots about our globally-connected world over the last 2 years. In July, I reflected on a project I designed with Dr. Kristi Meeuwse for early learning Apple Distinguished Educators. Connecting Classes Across Continents makes use of FaceTime calls to discuss our place in the world. These discussions lead learners to authoring multi-touch books which they share with their connected classes. These books provoke further questions which set the scene for the next FaceTime call. You can read more about this project and the impact it has here.

This project has continued to grow this year and we have connected classes in South Carolina, Ireland and Australia. But where does this Disruptive Driver fit in to Early Years Outcomes? When I review the work that we do and the conversations we have about the world, because of this ‘Cross-Cultural Competency’, it seems easy to let children exceed the People & Communities early learning goal because it has not yet been disrupted by Future Work Skills!

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Future Work Skills 2020 has given me Key Skills of the ‘Globally-Connected World’ which has helped me to make clearer links between this disruption in my classroom and the assessments I’m given from Early Years Outcomes.

‘Cross-Cultural Competency’ can support our Communication and Language early learning goals by redefining how we moderate it.

  • How do children adapt their communication skills when using FaceTime?
  • Can they have a two-way conversation with a using technology?
  • How are they using language to share their ideas over the internet through books and video conferencing?

The experiences of Connecting Classes Across Continents deepens the skills of the early learning goal for speaking.

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Our connected classes are more than people who we talk to though. They are friends that we have who share learning with us and develop our ideas. This Disruptive Driver has challenged the ideas in the Making Relationships early learning goal.

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We form positive relationships with adults and other children beyond our school setting. Beyond our own community even! I look for children who can suggest ways we can work with our connected classes to move learning forward. This can be as simple as a child asking ‘how are Mr. Milner’s chickens?’ a couple of months after we helped his class hatch them in Sydney. So we will create a quick video message and send it over to them. Then understand how they take-turns with us! Because of their time-zone our relationship is not immediate like it is with our friends in South Carolina. We have to wait a whole day for them to take their turn! Which children can easily pick up where we left off in this relationship? Do they understand, and empathise with, the time-zone constraints of working collaboratively? That’s what I’m looking for in the ‘Cross Cultural Competency’ skills of an early learner and it has broadened the evidence that I am bathing for Making Relationships.

Computational Thinking

Future Work Skills 2020 has ‘Computational Thinking’ as Key Skill from the disruption of the ‘Computational World’ and ‘New Media Ecology’ drivers. Programmable systems and new media literacies beyond text are creating a work force who need to understand coding. I recently heard a Computing at Schools Master Teacher describe computational thinkers as architects and coders as the brick layers. This may sound derogatory to coders, and it shouldn’t be. The point is that there will be a work force who depend on coders, who have coders that work on their team. We need to understand the work of coders to best use their skills in the team and work effectively together. Coding shouldn’t happen inside a black box, where a request for a product goes in and it comes out the other side, without any understanding of what happens between the two ends. The architects know what the brick layers do, we need to know what the coders do!

So how am I preparing children for computational thinking? I have many examples of early coding, unplugged coding and how science/technology/engineering/mathematics are working together to develop this key skill:

Story & Coding with Dash and Path.

The MakerSpace: A Foundation Stage Challenge

Start Unplugged! Coding in Early Years.

However, when I look at the depth I’m seeing other Disruptive Drivers have when linking redefined tasks together, I don’t feel like computational thinking is as embedded yet. Yes, it is most definitely present in my classroom and children achieve the early learning goal for Technology because of it…

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… but I need to provide more linked opportunities to understand coding concepts such as sequencing, pattern spotting, debugging et. This language needs to be more explicit and activities need to be designed so that children practise these skills on and off screen on a more regular basis. Computational thinking links to learning in Mathematics, Shape Space and Measure, Communication and Language, Making Relationships and so on. I need to harness these links and bring computational thinking to the front and centre of the way I promote learning in my classroom. Children need to be given more opportunity to approach tasks in the way of a computational thinker so prepare them for the future work place skills.


These are case studies where Disruptive Drivers are re-working learning in my early years classroom. It’s a model where I can connect the redefined tasks of SAMR and show the impact they are having as one best practice. Future Work Skills 2020 and SAMR are joining the dots, giving me the links to government assessments and standards for child development. And this is something which is often missing when technology is seen to be enhancing learning environments.

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