Educators are expected to predict the future, because their job is to prepare students for a world that is yet to come. This makes education a ‘problem’ in terms of its complexity and the many expectations placed on it, writes David Parsons.
Predicting the future is a challenging task because it’s hard to imagine, especially in education. If you need convincing, try the reverse time capsule activity – think about all the aspects of 2021 that would amaze the people of 2001.
There is no single solution or end point to the questions raised by the interface between education, society and technology.
Where do we start? Let’s begin with a world where change accelerates exponentially. Technologies take a certain amount of time before reaching a significant number of users. The telephone took 75 years to reach 50 million users, but it only took 13 years for television to do the same. Facebook did it in four years; Pokémon Go took only 19 days.
Nature of learning
Technologies come at us at an ever-faster rate, while raising profound questions about the nature of learning. What is worth remembering if we can look up facts (or ‘alternative facts’) on Google? What is worth learning if computers can already outperform humans in skills (like chess and driving) and knowledge (like winning ‘Jeopardy’ and writing news articles)?
One thing to remember is that technology (and the future) isn’t something that just happens to us. It is created, shaped and used by people for a human purpose. Also, let’s not forget that technology is not just a challenge that faces us, it is an opportunity. The way we learn today is different to what it was before the Web and digital devices. Students now have more control over their own learning, which is increasingly socially constructed across potentially global networks and can take place beyond traditional boundaries of space, time, age and wealth. But technology does not operate in a vacuum, so what of society?
Demands and expectations
Education has three main roles. The most obvious one is that it provides students with applied skills and capabilities. However, equally important is preparing them for participating fully and positively in society and developing themselves as individuals. All three come together when we consider social expectations.
Increasingly, students are said to be in need of preparation for an unknown future. In 2017, Richard Branson asked the question: “What do you wish you had learned in school?” Responses included finance skills, life skills, emotional intelligence, relationships, time management, leadership, experimental learning, global issues, mental health, coding, nutrition, public speaking, and even kindness.
These were what people felt was need, but only a few figure in formal education.
Society needs to provide a path forward for coming generations. What can educators do?
Whole person learning
Students need help with practical and emotional skills, engagement with current technologies, with the world, and with each other. Their learning needs to have both local relevance and broad reach, emphasising whole person learning, cultural growth, equity and sustainability.
They need to be exposed to new ideas, creative activities, empowering processes and cognitive challenges. The documentary ‘Most Likely To Succeed’ lays out the case for contextualised, practical learning across the curriculum. Such thinking is not new. Educational reformer John Dewey was writing about schools that did this more than 100 years ago. We need it to happen right across the education system.
Ha-Joon Chang, in ‘23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism’ wrote: “Education is valuable, but its main value is not in raising productivity. It lies in its ability to help us develop our potentials and live a more fulfilling and independent life”.
That remains our challenge, whatever the future may throw at us.
Dr Dave Parsons is National Postgraduate Director at The Mind Lab.
For more on The Mind Lab and its Postgraduate courses for educators go to themindlab.com
Developing the means and machines to meet the future
Whatever the future holds for education, Acer is at the forefront of developing technology that will meet a variety of learning needs.
Empowering students is the TravelMate Spin B3, an ultra-durable learning device, combining high performance with low power consumption, and consistent connectivity for efficient learning.
For teaching professionals, the TravelMate Spin P4 is a premium notebook that’s built to last and comes with the latest and powerful processing and connectivity.
For a technology consultation on your future needs contact Acer at firstname.lastname@example.org
INTERFACE June 2021