• July 31, 2021
2 Comments

As technology advances, education will only become more digitalized.  The omnipresence of computers is rising steadily–and will only continue to increase.  The globalization of the job-world, along with the technologically-based attitude of society is not declining.  A slower-paced, simple world sounds ideal, but is not realistic.  So the challenge arises: How do educators prepare students to solve problems that do not even exist yet?  How can students prepare for careers that are yet to be invented?

Scott McLeod, Associate Professor in the Educational Administration program at Iowa State University, blogs about this dilemma at Dangerously Irrelevant at BigThink.com.

He challenges educators to think of ways to ready students for the “future of learning.”  But what is that future?

In 2007, McLeod created the video, “Did You Know? (Shift Happens).  In the video, McLeod presented a disturbing reality.

In India and China, “there are more honors students than there are total students in the United States.” By the time current students reach the work-world there will be even more emphasis on the global market–how can U.S. students compete with such a drastic statistic?

Job stability is decreasing, and one in four workers is working for a company that employed them less than a year ago. The top ten in-demand jobs in 2010, didn’t even exist in 2004!  Current occupations might as well be on an endangered species list–and are likely to be extinct by the time students pursue a career.

In fact, “for students starting four year college, half of what they learn in their first year, will be outdated by their third year.”

At this rate, it seems impossible to catch up.

Perhaps the most alarming prediction in McLeod’s video, was that by 2013, it is predicted that a $1000 supercomputer will be able to exceed the “computational capability” of a human–and by 2049, that same $1000 supercomputer will be able to exceed the brainpower of the entire human race.

If these predictions are true, then educators must immediately start preparing students for the digitalized world.  Networking must be emphasized, self-inquiry encouraged–more focus must be devoted to computer-based skills.

Technology will not retreat to the levels of the past.  For example, reading the New York Times for a single week presents one with more information than a person living in the 18th century was exposed to in a lifetime.  This is the age of information overload.

It is frightening to think that one day a computer will surpass the intelligence of a human–but if that day is to come, educators must be ready.  A more realistic goal would be to focus on preparing students to compete with not just the peers within their country, but the world.

I have no doubt that by the time I graduate college in 2015, my biggest competition for a job will not be a fellow classmate, but a peer from India, China, or another country.

The challenge has been issued, and educators must take action.  The most difficult aspect though, is how to take action?  It is easy to demand change, but ensuring it is much harder.

In order for students to be prepared for the future, technology is not the only thing that must be emphasized.

Students can only learn so much in high school and college before it is outdated.  Students must learn how to learn.  If students are taught how to think critically and ask the right questions–success is attainable.  It is ideal to think that arming a student with knowledge of the most modern technology will promise that one will be able to face the “future of learning:” but the world is moving too fast for this to be enough.

In the time taken to read this article, it is reasonable to extrapolate that new innovations have been developed.  High speed development will only continue to get faster.  Peers in India and China will only get smarter and work harder.  And fretting about how unprepared U.S. students are is a waste of time.

Educators must be called to focus on technology, to an extent.  But the most important skill an educator can give a student cannot be found in binary code or in the technical instruction manual for the latest gadget.  The ability to think, to process, to develop original ideas–and be able to articulate them–that is a skill that will never be outdated.  That is something that, I believe, a supercomputer will never be able to do better than a human.

In my experience at Leesville, I have only taken one computer-based class.  However, I feel that in some classes, such as A.P. English, A.P. U.S. History, or A.P. Statistics–that I have been challenged to really think.  Throughout much of high school, there are classes that encourage regurgitation and conformity to a specific method–students are not required to develop original solutions to problems, they don’t think, they memorize.  

Teachers must recognize that such regulated learning harms their students.  The goal of educators should be to produce a young adult who can handle any situation.  But how can a student face uncharted challenges if all they have been taught to do is prepare for a test?  

Throughout high school there is one question that I have heard in every class.

“Is this going to be on the test?”

Students obsess over tests because that is how their grade is determined.  But years from now, these students will be highly disadvantaged, because the parameters of the test will be undefined.  

“How can we compete with the growing superpowers, India and China?”

The future will not be in test format.  

Rene Descartes, philosopher, said, “Cogito ergo sum.” I think therefore I am.  Thinking is what makes one human.  And as long as that ability is honed, as long as school emphasizes this skill, I believe that students will be able to adapt to any environment.

After all, it’s not who knows the most–it’s who can evolve the most–who can be thrown a bone and make a spear.  Critical thinking is the key to success in a global, technology-based world.

Cogito ergo sum.

2 thoughts on “The future of education

  1. Robert Fried says…

    Like Jacob, the biblical youth who sold his patrimony to his brother Esau for the equivalent of a Big Mac, our youth are cajoled into giving up their independent spirit of learning, their spiritual heritage as self-motivated seekers, to get a test score burrito or a report card wrap.

    The ultimate irony of this transference is that those few students who manage to retain their independent learning spirit . . . are likely to be better positioned to blossom academically and vocationally than those who pursue academic achievement through the Game. It is from that minority unencumbered by pseudo-goals that we get most of our inventors, entrepeneurs, artists, and scientists. What leads to success at higher levels of abstraction and study is precisely this ability to turn from the expected to pursue the intriguing . . . to awaken to the new theory or pattern amid the cacophony of conventional thinking. [The Game of School, p. 80]

    This quote particularly resonated with me because it echoes the feelings of many of my peers (https://www.themycenaean.org/2010/12/the-modern-school-system-transforms-students-into-cynics/).

    Thank you for the link!

    Also, if you are not already familiar with “Doing School (https://www.themycenaean.org/2010/12/doing-school-rethinking-the-system-of-modern-education/)”, by Denise Pope, you might find it very interesting.

  2. Great article!

    In a rapidly-changing world, the ones who will be successful will be those who, as you note, are adaptive learners. When we school students out of their natural curiosity – when we immerse them in so-called ‘learning environments’ that actually are mind-numbingly boring and dull so that students are never cognitively engaged and just do the minimum to get by – we do them an extreme disservice.

    Here’s a post of mine that may be of interest. See if any of these quotes resonate with you!

    http://bigthink.com/ideas/30224

    Keep up the fantastic writing!

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