Parent, educator, and technology futurist, Frances Valintine, provides insights for parents concerning our role in supporting children to develop an ongoing confidence and passion as learner. What should a parent be considering around guiding youngsters concerning learning pathways?
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Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello, and welcome to the parents as learning coaches edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Parents and caregivers play many different roles, and even sometimes conflicting roles as they support children’s development. The pandemic has shown a light on the importance of parents supporting learners. In this podcast, I’ll share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner that can support your coaching efforts.
Steve: 00:35 Future thinking: yours and theirs. Joining us today from New Zealand, is Frances Valintine. She’s the author of a new book, “Future You” and the founder of the Mind Lab and the Technology Futures Lab and a parent. Welcome Frances.
Frances: 00:53 Great to be here, Steve. And the role as a parent is my number one role, I think always .
Steve: 00:59 So tell us a little bit about your background and the focus of your new book, “Future You.”
Frances: 01:06 I am a person who stumbled into education 25 years ago through a technology pathway. So I was curious and really following technology and then realized that actually learning is the best way to keep in touch with technology and where it was going. And in that journey, I ended up in education and I’ve now taught actually over a quarter of a million children through my programs. And so school groups in the earlier days in my career, right through to now running graduate schools for teachers and for professionals. And so my real fascination is how do people learn and how do we adapt and how do we make sure we never stop encouraging people to learn regardless of age? And I think as a parent, it’s probably one of our number one tasks that we have as a parent is to instill a love of learning and a confidence in individuals, in our children, to be confident in the way they learn and who they are. And so it’s a really big part of how I think about both being an educator, but also as a parent.
Steve: 02:10 Could you talk a little bit about the kinds of learning opportunities that you create for for school aged students?
Frances: 02:17 So earlier in my career, when the Mind Lab first started, we were really focused on schools bringing bus loads of children into our facilities, teaching them about STEM or STEM type subjects as science or technology, some coding, some robotics, some animation. And so, the schools are bringing in these children who are mostly aged between seven and 12, amazingly, these same kids now are, you know, university graduates, so they’ve all grown up, and we had a number of facilities and like I say, a quarter of a million students came through our doors and learned this way. But it was pretty soon after we started teaching these students and we realized that they have this massive capacity to learn quickly around technology and digital, that the teachers who are accompanying them, these children said, this is great. We love that you’re teaching our students, but we have no idea how to replicate this type of learning in the classroom. So within two years of starting the Mind Lab around 10 years ago, we moved and turned our focus to teach the teachers how they could teach young children from the age of five, all the way through to university, how to think about technology and science and thinking about this new world of digital. And so it was really, almost by accident that we ended up teaching teachers because we really set out to teach kids.
Steve: 03:43 So one of my roles on this podcast is that I bring a history piece to this So looking back, I know that it was at least 20 years ago, we were talking to teachers about the fact that future jobs that students were likely to have didn’t exist and so we were pondering, how are you preparing students for a future that we didn’t know what that would be? That was 20 years ago. So I’m guessing that that’s been multiplied by some number of rate of change. How does that impact parents thinking about what their kids are experiencing?
Frances: 04:32 The most common question I am asked by parents and I have a lot of sessions with parents is, what should my children study? Now, there is a very big disconnect between what parents think are still in-demand roles and actually the roles that are truly in demand or the roles that their kids want to do. And I’ll give you example. One of the ways that I showcase this is, if I have a room full of parents or teachers, I go to a job board, like a live – we have in New Zealand, you have different ones in the US. We basically go to a job board and there’s a hundred thousand jobs on this job site. And so I ask them in the room, okay, tell me, “what do you do?” And someone says, “oh, I’m a journalist.”
Frances: 05:20 And so I enter journalist and it pops up and it says there are 300 jobs for a journalist. And someone says, “well, I I’m a software developer.” They put in software developer and it says there are 35,000 jobs for a software developer. And someone said, “well, I’m a librarian.” And lawyers, there’s low number of lawyers needed, but then you put an engineer and it goes back up high again. And you have this moment where you see parents looking and realizing that their job is no longer in demand. And that goes for a lot of areas where they might be thinking, but that’s a good job but actually they’re a PR person or a marketing person. And then they enter things like, if you’ve got kids in the room as well, “so what do you wanna be?”
Frances: 06:03 They’re like, “a social media influencer.” And so you put that in show that that really is a job. It may not have that many, but there is this practical way you can look at at this and just sort of understanding and real live data, like, straight from a job website. But I think the bigger thing to really focus on is our kids are going to be working for many, many different jobs over their career. If they start working, let’s say, start working around the age of 20, might be just part time where they’re studying, or they maybe have gone straight into work, they’re going to work probably through till somewhere between 17 and 18, given our life expectancy is increasing towards a hundred all the time. So they will have multiple different careers and they’ll have side hustles and they’ll have portfolio careers.
Frances: 06:49 And they’ll do things in very different ways than we did. Having a house, a job, and a car is not the ultimate aspirations of a young person today. A job for life is almost terrifying. This idea that you might become a professional and stay in the same firm for 25 years or 45 years. And so we really have to shift our perspective about what do our children really get excited about? The number one advice I could give parents about what should your children study is let them study the things they love. If you have something, a subject where a student has passion, talent or interest, they will continue to have confidence about learning. If you have a child that is actually highly creative and loves English and music and loves the arts, and you are saying no, but you have to do physics and you must do chemistry and you’ve gotta do Latin or, or French and they don’t love that, you’re immediately going to set them on a pass where learning is going to be seen as a negative view, their confidence will diminish.
Frances: 07:54 And actually, they’re not gonna love you at the end by because they might end up going into a degree program of your choosing, but they won’t stay. And so we really do have to think about, in today’s world, where there is so many levels of anxiety and confusion about jobs and the types of roles out there, the single biggest thing that I think is apparent we need to do is to keep our kids confident and excited about learning, because actually, it’s at that point, if they love learning, they’ll be lifelong learners, they will go and learn, they’ll go to university at some point, they might not finish, but they’ll go probably go back and finish, they’ll change their mind and do something else, but they’ll be on a journey for life of adaptation, the ability to learn and change and flex in this sort of squiggly line that actually is the types of careers we have today versus the very linear line – you finish school, you go to university, you become qualified and you stay there for life. And that world just does not exist anymore and we shouldn’t pretend it does.
Steve: 09:08 So knowing how to find a passion and then knowing how to learn. If I can put those two things together, I’m set.
Frances: 09:17 Yeah. And they may not be or the most difficult subjects, but if you have a child who’s not particularly academic and you try to put them into an academic program, or you say, well, you must do an IB or a Cambridge program, which is measuring academic success, they are not going to be successful. But if you put them in a program where they’re actually doing things they love and they do well and they successful and they get good grades, that it’s gonna change everything in a positive way, but it sometimes feels, it’s so much pressure for our kids to do well academically and so much pressure about our kids being better than the neighbors kids, we’ve just gotta get beyond that and this idea. In today’s world where happiness and self worth is so low, let’s just start by making sure learning is this one thing that they get excited about doing and then build that confidence and then they will keep learning and they will get to the programs, the more difficult ones. They will almost certainly end up in formal, higher education in time, but they may just do it in a slightly different older than what we as a parent may ideally like.
Steve: 10:28 You’re putting a big smile on my face. I’m the grandparent with a granddaughter heading into high school and all the pressure was on to pick a program. And I was so excited when my daughter informed me that my granddaughter’s decision was she was gonna make a program.
Steve: 10:51 If I want a high science class, I’m gonna take a high science class, but I’m not signing up for a program that tells me over the next three or four years, here’s the set of courses hat I have, that I have to take. And I’m really hearing that laid out here. She’s realizing her interest will emerge and she’s got the courage to follow the interest, but I think my daughter has even more courage to be the parent that supports that when a lot of the other parents are questioning my daughter as to, are you getting her in the IB program or this advanced program or pre-college program or…
Frances: 11:32 Yeah. And I’ll give you the story of my my oldest son – he’s 24. So he graduated from high school, he went to university, he started doing architecture. He did two years of architecture before he realized he didn’t enjoy it. He said, I’m over it. The things I thought architecture would be about, we are just studying theory and I don’t wanna sit there with a ruler all day and doing drafting. And so he said, my real passion is audio engineering. He loves music. So now he is studying again. And that really interesting thing for me is he’s always worked through his studies, but for the last two years of his studies, his job in the evenings is he’s a director of e-sports. So he sits in a control room with about 20 big screens, having global feeds where he is the director of the camera of people playing computer games in a stadium sometimes of 60,000 people.
Frances: 12:29 So these are people in stadiums or online watching people play computer games. If you had told me that that was a job five years ago, I would have gone completely bonkers. Now, he’s got not aspirations to be an e-sport director full time, this is what he does as a side hustle while he’s doing his audio engineering. But none of this is the path that he set out to do, but actually he couldn’t be happier. He does the things that make him happy, and he’s entering industries that I don’t fully understand, but he fully understands and he’s networked in those industries. He’s got global connections. He’s well known for what he does, both in audio now with his eSports. It is this evolution and we should be really proud of our kids. They’re prepared to kinda break through some of the status quo and just follow that passion and do things they love.
Steve: 13:22 I’m hearing happy kids make happy parents.
Frances: 13:25 I think that’s very true.
Steve: 13:30 I really appreciate your thinking and your thoughts that you’ve shared here Frances. Give us a way that parents might follow up with you and I think parents would find your book an interesting read both for themselves outside their parenting role, but in their parenting role as well.
Frances: 13:53 Yeah. The books available – so, “Future You,” I think there might be more than one Future You on the bookshelf, so look for the one by Frances Valintine and if you want to reach me, you can drop me an email. So firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve: 14:08 All right. And we’ll be sure to post that. Thank you so much. I really, really appreciate it.
Frances: 14:13 Great chatting to you, Steve.
Steve [Outro]: 14:16 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter at Steve Barkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs, Barkley pd.com.