December 11, 2013

An article by Greg Toppo in the October 6 USA TODAY underscores a problem we have seen developing for the past decade:

“A first-ever international comparison of the labor force in 23 industrialized nations shows that Americans ages 16 to 65 fall below international averages in basic problem-solving, reading and math skills, with gaps between the more- and less-educated in the USA larger than those of many other countries. . . .

The oldest Americans in the sample turned in a higher-than-average performance in reading, with 9% of test-takers between 55 and 65 years old scoring at the top proficiency level, compared to just 5% worldwide. In math, however, they were even with the 7% international average.

The problem, the new findings suggest, is with younger U.S. workers, who lag in nearly every category.

The results are ‘quite distressing,’ says Harvard University’s Paul Peterson, co-author of Endangering Prosperity, a recent book on education and international competitiveness. ‘Other countries have been catching up for some time,’ he says. ‘At one time, we had a really significant lead, but those people are disappearing from the workforce.’”

The roots of this problem lie in some of the statistical reports we have seen earlier regarding public school education.

Quoting from a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) study that reported on high school seniors, THE WASHINGTON POST, November 19, 2010 stated: “The scores mean that 38 percent of seniors demonstrated proficiency in reading and 26 percent reached that level in math.” (The Washington Post; November 19, 2010; page A9)

This follows an even earlier NAEP study, issued by the Department of Education, that reported that only 25 percent of our fourth graders are able to form opinions from what they read and that only 34 percent of our high school graduates can.

This lack of real progress in our schools is in sharp contrast to what has been taking place in America’s businesses and industries where most in-house training programs have been successful. And, one of the answers for this success lies in the adoption of media learning technologies while our nation’s schools, too often, adhere to the old lecture/reading/testing method of instruction — in spite of the indisputable fact that the world transitioned into a visual learning culture a half century ago.

Many of the foundation skills and competencies (including math and reading) — so critical to the workplace — can be achieved through the use of technology in the classroom, K-12 and beyond. According to much research, students using technology demonstrate any number of improvements: more confidence, higher motivation, peer mentoring, collaboration, and enhanced self-esteem.

Quoting from one research study, “Compared to conventional classrooms with their stress on verbal knowledge and multiple-choice test performance, technology provides a very different set of challenges and different ways in which students can demonstrate what they understand.” Added benefits may be found in that “students watch less television, while improving problem-solving and critical thinking skills . . . technology rich schools report higher attendance and fewer dropouts.”

And, so it is proving to be in our adult work world. Organizations that are moving from “live instruction” to the multiple benefits of multi-sensory learning are leaping ahead.

Again, that same multi-sensory learning comes to mind as the most flexible solution. It offers privacy to the learner, ease of use, scheduling flexibility, and stands ready to offer initial or refresher training as needed.

The learning-world has changed. And, both the reading minority and the less-adept-at-reading majority will benefit from the technology advances that are upon us.

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning

www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Mondays & Wednesdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com