The world our children will inherit

The world that our children experience

This blog seeks to capture aspects of emerging technology and culture that will shape the world of tomorrow for the students of today. The way we have taught kids in the past just won’t cut it into the future. The traditional classroom is predicated on a control philosophy. The teacher’s role has been to manage and control the behaviours of the class and once this is achieved, to then be the provider of knowledge and content.

Some students can cope with the school models of the past, but many students (dare say most students) do not. The control classroom does not prepare students for the world they will enter. The control classroom says ‘it’s all about the teacher’s ability to be all things to all students’. No wonder that causes stress.

The African proverb that says ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is far more accurate. Left alone in many contexts, even parents struggle to raise a child. How much stronger is a collaborative and community approach where a child has multiple relationships and multiple mentors. Learning does not all hinge on the one teacher model. Business has moved on from this years ago. Why place this as the model for kids to experience? No wonder so many students get disengaged from learning so quickly. Life outside the school gates is so very different from the world we still create inside the gates.

Governments and education ministries around the world just do not get it. They must create strategies for the future, not votes or their past. The control classroom can place a ceiling on the capacity of a child to think, to know, to understand & to create.

New technologies provide an amazing opportunity to allow a child to reach beyond the experience and knowledge of their teacher. Why limit that? Education as we currently know it in traditional schools will reach a tipping point. I suspect sometime in the next decade. Too much is changing for ed change not to happen. Costs of traditional education. Changing economic contexts. Changing cultural contexts. The current schooling model will exhaust itself. Why would a child attend school in a traditional way if better ways to educate a child emerge? Children will need a functional community. That will be the key to why schools should still exist.

Bubbling along behind the scenes of our society, our culture is being reshaped by new technologies. Think back 20 years as to what either did not exist or was not widespread. Can we now imagine a world without the Internet or mobile communication? Just as mobile phones have altered the way people communicate, so too access to mobile technologies will alter the way we work & learn. We receive and retrieve information in different ways. This will continue to change. Our children will interact with technology in ways that are not yet mainstream. Voice activated writing, touch screen technology, spreading from being fixed installations to multi-surfaced & pervasive will be their world. An ever-growing world of sensor-directed environments will be their story. Will our grandchildren even know what it is like to drive a car? Sensor technology is already taking over much of our daily experiences, even when we don’t realise it. Schools must adapt. The aeroplane industry is an example of computer controlled transport. Who needs a pilot when computers can now manage all aspects of a flight?

Technology is integrating into our existence. We see this happening now. This integration will filter into all aspects of life. The line between human and cyborg is already crossing. This will be the medical world of our children. In the UAE over 80% of television is consumed via mobile devices. The world is changing. Rapidly. The technology that surrounds our existence is changing. This will fundamentally change schools. Already children seem to be born with an inherent touch-screen capacity. I’ve seen that in 2 year olds in both the developed/underdeveloped world.

Why teach for redundancy, when we could be teaching for competency & creativity & relevance. The shift to the online world is not just about social media and games. Increasingly we shop online, do courses online, schedule our days online. We do our banking, buy our books, find our clothes, organise our travel – manage our whole lives online. Schools will change. We need to be training our children into the responsibilities of the online world. Has any country created a core curriculum that includes that? And this isn’t just the developed world. Are you aware of the impact mobile technologies are making in Africa and Asia? Have you seen whole villages painted over with the colours of the local telco companies? Mobile communication / learning is the future.

There have been enormous shifts in the world politically & economically in the last two decades. Our children will be forced to find solutions for some enormous challenges – climate change, cultural shift, changing demographics. Our children will be forced to find solutions for a new uncertain economic world order. Can education leaders respond to the ‘arab springs’ of social change? What will happen when those ‘arab springs’ demanding change hit our schools hard? Are we prepared for a new way? Whatever the outcome of the GFC, there is a monumental shift occurring from ‘west to east’, from the northern hemisphere to the Asia Pacific. Globalisation has already occurred and continues apace.

And around the world – whether in the developed or developing world, unemployment issues are starting to dominate the stage. Why educate a child if after 13 years they are still working alongside an uneducated neighbour in subsistence living? We have to teach job creation skills – otherwise we will fail our children. Over 50% of the youth of many nations are either unemployed, under-employed or mis-employed. Many students will graduate into a world unconnected to their higher education and training. Students are & will finish up with an enormous debt for the privilege of having a higher education. It has to be relevant. The NIC 2025 and 2030 Global Issues Reports both point to a near future that will be dominated by chronic food shortages and lack of access to water. Are we teaching students the skills to increase production, reduce conflict and focus on the critical issues that they will face? Have we given serious attention to enabling our children to understand how to respond to a world that is warming, whether that be from man made or historic cycles?

Our children are likely to live on average at least a decade longer than current life expectancies with new medical advances. Nanotechnology and other advances will provide better health care. Their lives and stories and social interactions will be inherently different. They already are. We have to focus on creating learning communities that are totally adaptive to change – but within the security of positive relationships, nurtured in functional communities. We have to collaborate. We should not compete. We have to think beyond ourselves. We have to second guess the world these children will inherit and give them every advantage to not only survive – but be those who shape and lead this new world.

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