By Ailish Irvine.
In about 1979 I sat in a rural national school in Co-Mayo and read a piece about the future of education. The article promised a kind of utopia by the year 2000. It said in the future children would be at home learning on a computer and a teacher would randomly check in with them to see how they were doing. I looked at my fairisle jumper and my wallpaper covered books and thought, “Yeah right, like that’s going to happen”
In 2002 I remember the day I first heard the term’ The Internet and The World Wide Web.’ ‘Can’t see the point of it really,’ I thought. “That internet thing will never catch on.”
The truth is the Internet has opened up a world of opportunities to us, irrespective of our location, economic status, educational background or age. We went from a system that taught us compliance and how to follow orders that didn’t ever adapt at the same pace as emerging technologies or societal changes. A system that assumes that because we are a particular age, our ability should be exactly the same as everyone else our age. If we are a certain gender, then we should have certain interests and career paths that are suited to that.
So with the emergence of online learning platforms like Alison.com, Khan academy, Lynda.com and MOOC’s anyone can get access to knowledge, a currency that hasn’t quite floated on a stock exchange. Anyone with access to a computer can teach themselves anything. Some schools in the US have recognised this by teaching the flipped classroom model. Do the learning at home and the practise in school.
Traditionally our education systems taught us compliance. We were taught to respect our learned elders and we were also taught to look for solutions in certain places.
The harsh realities that I have learned in life are. Things fall apart. People need to pick themselves up and keep moving. They need to stay ahead of the game and try and anticipate the way that they can remain most competitive. They need to remain relevant. They need to know that there is no such thing anymore as a job for life. They need to know that a machine may replace them someday.
We need to facilitate people to deal with change and to be great leaders, we need to give people the freedom to come up with solutions and the permission to be great (and the permission to fail). We need to teach the child who won’t stop talking in class (because they are bored) that the ability to talk to people later in life will be a worthy and useful skill.
We need to focus on our strengths and not our weaknesses. School teaches you to try and focus on what you are not good at and keep banging your head off a brick wall until you master it. I believe our focus should be more on studying what we are good at and what we love doing.
We need to celebrate diversity and difference and accept that we don’t have all the answers. We should learn to collaborate and try not to be an expert and realise that combined we can come up with solutions.
So What are the jobs of the future? We hear about augmented reality, virtual reality,mlearning, genetic modification, growing body parts, printing body parts, and artificial intelligence, Robots may clean our houses (please hurry and make that a reality). There are terms like #edtech ,#medtech #fintech and many more that haven’t been invented yet. So how do we educate our children for jobs that don’t exist?
So if people can basically teach themselves anything online, what cannot be taught by a piece of technology? Well it can’t teach manners, kindness, decency, respect or empathy. (I think)
The best lessons that I learned in life were from teachers who supported, encouraged, cajoled and praised me. The ones who told me I could stand up in front of a crowd if I was brave. The ones who told me that my essay was funny and my view of the world was different. Some told me I had good ideas and some told me that I was good enough. Others told me that I had a voice and that I should use it. They are the things that I try to pass onto others when I teach.
I don’t know if we can teach resilience yet or coping with failure or bounce backabiity.
We need to teach people that it’s their own responsibility to solve social issues and to look for solutions. We also need to know that we are capable of greatness. We are all original and we should embrace that and embrace our original thought.
In a thoroughly enjoyable TED talk Adam Grant discusses the delightful sweet spot where original thought happens. The good news folks is that original thinkers live somewhere in the middle , they are not highly organised , nor are they dreadful procrastinators, they are however procrastinators. He also discusses the process of developing a good idea and makes the distinction between self doubt and idea doubt. The former not being useful and the later being essential to innovation.
- We can learn therefore that key skills for the future are to know that we can exist outside of a traditional school curriculum.
- We can come up with good ideas and crap ones.
- We don’t need money to get a good education.
- We don’t have all the answers.
- We can have an idea and find help online to develop it without leaving the couch.
- We can return to learning at any stage.
- If there is no one else solving our problems, then perhaps we should solve them ourselves.
- Now that’s a message that we need to teach for the future.
So if you are a procrastinator, get in touch , you could be the next best original thinker. If you are a chatterbox, you will have a wonderful network when you are older. The future is bright.