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Is our destiny to be dominated by the robots? (Part II)

17 April 2014

Let’s resume our dissertation re. the School of the Future.

Nick Barker, a "futurologist", whom I have recently had the pleasure to receive a lecture from, says that we should “learn from the possible futures".  Yes, but… how could we do it?   Well, the concept is that some of these possible futures are already here, today, just unevenly distributed.  It’s our role as leaders to see them in advance.

For example, he is recommending to keep on monitoring a number of key indicators (which he has called the TIDES of change) related to:

- Technology

- Institutions

- Demography

- Environment

- Shifting social values.

Talking about emerging Technologies, we may write entire books.  Lately, the americans experts have been talking about SMAC, i.e., Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud.  These four are grouping the most important emerging technology trends.

Disintermediation, consumerization, and gamification will likely be the major drivers of change which those four technologies will drive.  Particularly, gamification is probably the one which is going to have a direct impact re. the way we will have to teach to the next generations.  I am referring to the attitude to gaming that the new generations are developing, which is also leading to the redesign of the very way people interact with the online applications.

Demography is another front which we must monitor.   There are dramatic changes which are already taking place on a worldwide basis, such as the emergence of the megacities and the apparently inevitable aging of the Western European populations.

The schools are now facing the Generation Y (born in 1990-2010), also called digital natives.  They are expecting everything accessible 24x7, are typically characterized by very high self-confidence, and need to know the reasons for what they are doing.  Also, they want to belong to a community, and appreciate to be part of an organization.  At the same time, they are particularly audacious, as the nice YouTube video "do you know who i am?” is showing.

And, of course, this is continuously evolving, as the Generation Z (born from 2010 on) will think, learn, and work differently.

The above were just a few examples.  It is, therefore, essential that the School’s world keeps on questioning itself,  and monitor closely these phenomena.

 

In closing, I would like to offer some personal thoughts re. how to build the School of the future:

 

1) As the new technologies will be eliminating many jobs, it will be necessary to focus on specialization and on building the so-called soft skills or, even better, life skills.

 

2) The technology will be and must be at the center of the new way of teaching, by literally revolutionizing the way with which we interact with the students.

We must introduce online teaching methodologies, but also alternate the online learning with “community moments”, by creating poles of interaction, according to the Generation Y desire.

The MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) have been already designed a few years ago.

As Wikipedia is telling us, a Massive Open Online Course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.  In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user fora that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs).

Although early MOOCs often emphasized open access features, such as connectivism and open licensing of content, structure, and learning goals, to promote the reuse and remixing of resources, some notable newer MOOCs use closed licenses for their course materials, while maintaining free access for students.

Education has exploded after the introduction of MOOCs and other courses challenging the very existence of traditional universities and old-fashioned teaching.

 

3) Education will have to be intended as a continuous training.

 

4) Having robust roots will surely represent an important factor for our youth’s psychological stability.  However, we will have to get them used to temporarily cut their roots, by making frequent moves.  Re. this point, I always like to mention the relocation metaphor, as a disruptive experience which at the same time may drive new connections.   Our youth will have to be ready to relocate: please note that relocating is different from tourism, as it’s about learning and appreciating new cultures.  These experiences will be essential to become global citizens, as well as to learn also from an emotional perspective.

 

5) Last but not least, it will be key to create a strong alliance between the School System and the Enterprises.  This is the cornerstone of the German and US educational systems (see my post re. my visit to the Silicon Valley).  It’s about generating a virtuous circle, with reciprocal influences by these two worlds that in Italy - other than few exceptions - and in other Countries are unfortunately progressing in parallel.

 

Finally, to "invent" the future of learning, I’d definitely exclude any Big Bang approach.  On the opposite, it will be necessary to launch numerous “pilot projects”, finalized to test the new ideas, and learn from any mistakes made, before progressing with the full scope implementations.

Surely, we do not need to revolutionize everything by tomorrow.  At the same time, we cannot afford to postpone this urgent transformation, maybe hoping that someone else will take care of this challenge, with enormous implications for our future generations.

 

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