15. Life Currencies for the Learning Economy

July 21, 2021 Amy Baron Season 1 Episode 15
15. Life Currencies for the Learning Economy
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15. Life Currencies for the Learning Economy
Jul 21, 2021 Season 1 Episode 15
Amy Baron

GUEST: STEPHANIE MALIA KRAUSS, AUTHOR, Making It: What Today's Kids Need for Tomorrow's World.  Today's young people have had a childhood defined by "a relentless rotation" of economic stress and other risks to their safety and stability, such as school shootings, climate change, and the Covid-19 crisis. Technology is an ever present force in their lives, and the on-demand world they inhabit forces them to constantly operate at maximum cognitive capacity. To move forward in the world, they will need four key "life currencies": Competencies, Credentials, Connections and Cash. Stephanie describes these currencies and how they are critical as we transition into a learning economy.

Find Stephanie on Twitter @stephanie_malia or Instagram @wonder_and_wayfinding.

Show Notes Transcript

GUEST: STEPHANIE MALIA KRAUSS, AUTHOR, Making It: What Today's Kids Need for Tomorrow's World.  Today's young people have had a childhood defined by "a relentless rotation" of economic stress and other risks to their safety and stability, such as school shootings, climate change, and the Covid-19 crisis. Technology is an ever present force in their lives, and the on-demand world they inhabit forces them to constantly operate at maximum cognitive capacity. To move forward in the world, they will need four key "life currencies": Competencies, Credentials, Connections and Cash. Stephanie describes these currencies and how they are critical as we transition into a learning economy.

Find Stephanie on Twitter @stephanie_malia or Instagram @wonder_and_wayfinding.

Amy Baron  0:06  

Hey everybody, I'm Amy Baron. And this is Upskilled: Solutions in the learning universe, where I talk with professionals in education and workforce development, about practices and perspectives that catalyze positive change. I'm here today with Stephanie Malia Krauss, who is a mom, educator and social worker. She is also the author of Making It: What Today's Kids Need for Tomorrow's World. And we are going to be talking about that book because it is brilliant. 


She is also the owner of First Quarter Strategies, a senior adviser to Jobs for the Future, a senior fellow for Education Northwest and staff consultant for the Youth Transition Funders Group. Stephanie is on social media, you can find her on Twitter and Instagram, and I will include her handles in the podcast description. So we are so excited to welcome Stephanie Malia Krauss to the podcast. 



Thanks, Amy. I'm so glad to be here today. 



We're so so excited to have you. And I'm so excited to dig into the content of your book, which is absolutely so insightful. And I recommend it highly to everyone. I will include the title and links in the podcast description as well. The book is so rich, it's so full of insights and strategies for young people and for the adults who are part of their learning communities. And so I thought we could start off a little bit talking about one of the most basic premises of the book, which is the idea of life currencies. And the idea that today's young people will need certain currencies in order to succeed in the ever changing world. You start by providing this context around the young people themselves, as well as the context in which they're growing up. 


And one of the phrase that really caught my attention was this idea of disruption natives. So you talk about kids today, not only being digital natives, we've all heard that term, but they are disruption natives and the idea that they've essentially had a childhood that's defined by a quote unquote, relentless rotation of economic stress and risks to their safety and stability, such as school shootings, cataclysmic weather events brought on by climate change. And of course, now we can add COVID-19. S


o this whole idea of safety and stability not being a given for this generation, and the fact that there are certain skills they need and competencies they need to acquire. And if you add to this the complication of technology, which further adds stress and chaos, in different ways. And also, critically, you talk about how that essentially separates the haves from the have nots, and how technology really kind of serves to, to further that separation. So I was thinking we could talk at first and you could tell us a little bit more about that context of, of how technology is changing things. No, that was a very long introduction. So now you have the floor. Stephanie,


Stephanie  3:40  

no problem. So I'm gonna take this in a couple of ways. I think one thing is given who you're who the folks are, who listen to this podcast, some of them may be familiar with this idea of disruptive thinking, in the context of acceleration and innovation, tech innovation. And so it's so interesting, because when you're writing a book, you really don't know what will stick with others. But the number of people who've got said, Oh, this disruption native piece, you know, like that really resonated as a mom or as an educator, or just as a human who's watching these kids grow up. And so one of the things that I think, really anchors this question about technology, the haves and have not what is this world that they're growing up in? is understanding what many of your listeners probably already know, which is, when you look at this kind of, I'll call them the COVID. Kid generation right now, young people in school right now. You're right, their lives have been bookended by incredible disruption. 


So last year, senior class started kindergarten really soon after 911 And then they or they were born soon after 911, they started kindergarten right when the great recession was happening. But that was also when smart technologies were coming out on the market. And now they're graduating in the midst of COVID, our attempts to recover from COVID, and the economic aftermath of that, but then inside of our school aged kid community, is anyone who was born after 2007. So my children are 10, and eight, they were born in 2010, and 2013, their births were announced on Facebook, you know, they had little digital footprints before they were born. But their lives have also been marked by these incredibly disruptive social, economic, racial, political events. And I think that combination, it's in the confluence of rapid change brought about by acceleration and innovation that we're well acquainted with in the work ad tech space, plus the insecurity and destabilizing factors of what's been happening in the world where,


Stephanie  6:20  

where the, you know, I talked about this in the book, the actual wiring is changing in these young people, both in what they're needing in presence, and the kind of workers and learners that they're going to be as they move forward in the world. And so, you know, overlaid on this is what we saw on during the pandemic, which is, technology is an ever present force in these young people's lives. And to bring us a little bit away from Are you on zoom or off soon, or something that's sort of one dimensional, I think what we need to understand is that this sort of tech touch relationship is so intimately a part of the digital experience, the analog experience, and even that disruption experience, where they get their news, how they're connecting with friends, how they're doing, learning or working in the midst of really difficult times. 


And so a couple of just quick points that I, I try to bring out in the book. One is that because of the role of technology that sort of goes through their entire life time, but also the sort of, so that's sort of the the length of their life, but also the width of their life, all of the ways that they're engaging in the world, we have to make sure that young people are able to work off tech, with tech, like actually in partnership with technology, inside of technology, right. And then in some cases, even in the responsive way. So when I talk about those technology, haves or have nots, one is that issue of access, which certainly became really pronounced during the pandemic, do you have access to what you need? The second is around, really those different relationships with technology are you equipped and able to work with on four alongside or to create new for the challenges that you face. And then the third piece, which I know resonated with you when you were reading is around the actual future of work. And that is, what is the role of technology in doing things that we have been doing previously, and what jobs are created new because technology has taken old ones and which jobs are taken up and no longer available, and who's resilient in that space. So the last thing I'll just say here in terms of technology, haves, technology have nots, this issue of disruption is that resilience and resourcefulness really come out as intense and intensely not only employable skills, but really important life skills for young people to have.


Amy  9:32  

Yeah, and I think that that really cuts across class and racial and and all of the lines really, you know, the idea of technology being so deeply rooted in everything they do, that the need to actually be able to interact with it and and this idea of the human machine kind of connection, I think was really an interesting, an interesting idea that you were that you were describing But I'm in regards to the world of work and in regards to the skills and competencies that that students need to continuously update and upgrade, what they know in line with my podcast, title upskilled, right, everyone is needing to upskill all the time, you have identified these currencies, that as you call them, kind of life currencies that young people today need to have in order to succeed. And I will let you talk about those. But I think this is this is a critical idea for anyone who is around today's young people who has the opportunity to help today's young people. So tell us about those currencies. Stephanie, please.


Stephanie  10:54  

Well, I just love that you picked up on the term learning economy when you were reading the book, my girlfriend, Barbara, who also she and I both used to work for jobs for the future. And we were playing with this term a couple of years ago, because at the time, folks, were still talking about the knowledge economy. And that felt too static for us, you know, that you would get a job based on what you know, and what you can do only. And we knew that at looking as we were looking at the job market and looking at what was happening, the trends that were happening, and it was much more important that folks could come forward and say, here's what I know and can do. But here's how I can continue to upgrade and update what I know and can do over time. And that sort of evolving piece of it. And so if you take this idea of the knowledge economy and say the way that work used to work was white collar, blue collar, what do you know, and can do, what have you been certified or qualified to do? That that idea is is truly outdated, but it's how a lot of us operate? Certainly, as parents and educators, it's often the advice that will give young people What do you want to be when you grow up? What college degree do you need for that? And then how do you get on the road for career advancement for this one thing. 


And so where the currencies emerged was actually in trying to get a better, more accurate picture of how opportunity works in adulthood right now, and will increasingly moving forward. So if you think about us moving from kind of a static workforce or economy to something that's way more evolving and changing based on the role of technology and these other factors we've talked about, then that social contract doesn't work anymore. And so what young people actually will need to do and what we, as workers are already doing is go to what I call this opportunity marketplace, where there are these vendors, you know, there are learning vendors, here's this credential, here's a certificate, here's this training that you need for this new job or this promotion, and then work work opportunities. And that the way that we get that is more than what you know, it is also who you know, it is also being able to have proof or evidence of what you've been trained for, and then cash on hand to afford the opportunities. 


So the currencies, for me are a picture of at the fundamental, most basic level, we actually have to pay for opportunity in America, learning cost, money, work, cost money, but we also spend out in these other ways. So the four currencies that young people are going to need as they move forward. One are competencies. So what are the skills that you need to know and be able to do and how are they sort of evolving with you? 


So the competencies that are talked about in books are ones that you can strengthen and improve over a lifetime. And they can be contextualized in a million different ways. They can work online or offline connections Who do you know, you know, you and I might decide to engage in a work opportunity because we have a shared colleague, and that builds trust and you feel like you know me, and you're going to go with me as a result of that opportunity. I actually say in the book that I think connections social capital might actually be the most powerful of the currencies and it's the one we talk about the least, credentials, they still matter. They're not always a good reflection, you know, you get a certificate or credential from one school versus another from one program or another, but employers still want to see them. And then cash, we don't in education talk about the role of cash enough, I think for any edtech person who's listening, there is a huge open marketplace for developing better tech that reflects and helps young people build for what financially is going to be required of them as they grow up in the in the changing world. So those are the four the ideas that you can inherit some right, I might inherit powerful social connections based on my family, or where I live, or who my friend's parents are a sort of a social bank account, like a financial bank account, and then some of them are learned and earned over time.


Amy  15:48  

Yeah, I want to follow up on one thing I read in the book about cash. And that is the idea that it takes cash for many people to develop that social capital, right? Because, you know, even if you look at the youngest people in society, the 5, 6, 7 year old students who maybe you know, in a privileged environment, maybe they're playing in Little League, and maybe the parent of one of their little league friends is, you know, ultimately going to introduce them to someone when they're, you know, about to enter the workforce or whatever. So, getting after school activities, activities that are for personal enjoyment, and things like that, that young people, some have access to, and some don't, the amount of social capital that can be gained just by participating in some of those activities is one thing that I found interesting. My husband and I have often talked about what we call the child industrial complex, which is how much money it costs to put your kids in these different programs. And many people just do not have that access.


Stephanie  17:06  

Yeah, absolutely. I'll just add very quickly, given this sort of Ed Tech slant here that I give an example in the book about a club in Houston, and what happened sort of inside the club. So for listeners, I was sort of nodding intensely, as Amy was just talking about that industrial, very expensive kid complex. There is a role for ed tech and a girlfriend colleague of mine, Julia free, Lynn Fisher talks a lot about this, to create that bridging and brokering space for social capital to help facilitate some of those relationships than connections, like cash. That's another sort of fertile marketplace that's so connected with learning and work success. Because particularly for folks who are who they have transportation issues, they have financial issues, or they're in remote rural areas, we need to use technology in that way to help facilitate those connections and to make them meaningful.


Amy  18:10  

Right, right. So just to summarize the currencies that Stephanie described so beautifully in her book, our competencies, credentials, connections, and cash. And I encourage everyone to, to pick up a copy and learn more about it. So the last the last point that you cover in the book, Stephanie, and that I, I am hoping you'll talk to us a little about is this idea of currency builders? And who are who are these currency builders, and what is their role?


Stephanie  18:45  

So I will say, first, that this is a book that is not a guide for success or well being. This is a book that says life is still unfair, and challenging and hard. And we have to help young people navigate a world that still has pandemics and deep racism and division and in complexity and scarcity. So currency builders, it's a call for adults who are going to be helping young people. On the one side, it's a dual call, to build these currencies to build the competencies and the connections to build and save cash, or to make things less expensive, and to work towards these credentials. And on the other side, partnering with young people to make them more equitable and fair and just world whether it's through the products that you're developing and designing what happens in your household with your own kids or if you serve as an educator or coach or counselor, anything else. 


And so what I lay out at the end of the book are five sort of principles of what currency builders should be. And there's specific things, you know, that you can look for. I definitely think whether you're developing a program or a device or anything, you can look at these as kind of pillars. And they're things like I'll give maybe to, to take out not only a whole child, but a whole life approach. Young people are growing up in this time, they will likely live a longer life, how do you not only think about their well being right now, but their well becoming what is happening and hold that tension and how you design or deploy things. Another one, though, is to be an advocate and an allies. So you know, let's say you're listening to this podcast, and you work for an edtech firm, and you really don't see what your role is, and helping a young person who's particularly harmed or held back in the education system, but you see the problem. Being able to serve outside of your professional capacity in some way, writing a letter or speaking up doing advocacy work, is also being a currency builder. 


So those five pieces kind of live alongside the currency. So folks pick up the book, what they'll get is, hey, here's what's different about today's kids in the workforce, the future of work and learning. Here are these four currencies, young people, and frankly, us as adults really need to keep growing and accruing to get opportunity in America. And then if we're gonna partner well with the young people that we care about and our lives or who we're serving through whatever our context is, what are the sort of anchoring principles or characteristics that we really have to keep in mind?


Amy  21:44  

Yeah, yeah, so important and such so insightful. I am afraid Our time is running out here, Stephanie. But we will definitely do this again, because there's so much more to explore here. And I am so grateful that you were willing to come on the podcast today. Thank you so much for being here. 



Thanks, Amy. It was an absolute pleasure, and I hope we do get to do it again.


Amy  22:17  

And thank you all for listening to upskilled. This episode has been brought to you by Convergent Learning, specializing in education technology product consulting and market strategy. You can follow me on LinkedIn or on Twitter at Amy Baron one. That's @AmyBaron1. And we'll see you next time on Upskilled.


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