What are we waiting for?

Recently there have been a spate of articles which are looking at the Internet of Things rapidly moving from being an idea to a reality. People are, almost daily, inventing and developing ways to connect processes to all that the internet has to offer which, like all innovation, is opening the door for even more creativity. It astonishes me that Siri has only been around for four years and yet the advancement that we’ve seen in this type of application has been monumental. People are quick to criticise the lack of certain features, but the fact remains we are able to speak to a little computer that fits in our pockets and it And it does this without needing hours of training first. But enough about that—I’ve spoken about it several times in the past.

What I really want to talk about is how ubiquitous connectivity influences education, or rather, how it should be shaping the way we educate people. I don’t only mean in a world somewhere in the distant future where we’re married to our operating systems, I mean now. Today.

My recollection about Siri’s introduction illustrates the point that technological progress is hurtling forward at an almost unfathomable pace. My Twitter feed is full of news about new wearables, vehicles, hardware and software applications that are changing the face of how we do things. Almost inevitably, much of this information is generally scoffed at by many of the people I speak to about it, but anyone who has been watching developments and trends will know that their dismissal will only be short lived. Many of my colleagues laughed at the prospect of an Apple Watch, and many of those same colleagues are now sporting the very device they ridiculed upon their wrists.

anyone who has been watching developments and trends will know that their dismissal will only be short lived

What does this have to do with education, though? The first answer to this is openness. Education, almost more than any other area of interest is plagued by the spirit of dismissal whenever a new innovation is proposed. I can guarantee that nearly everyone who works in edtech has had people tell them that something won’t work in their classes. ‘Flip the classroom? Whatever for? What kids need is personal interaction and someone showing them what’s what. There’s no way a child is going to self-motivate and study.’ That’s not something I’m making up, it’s an excerpt from a conversation I’ve had with an actual teacher. I should point out that they did not even really give me a chance to explain precisely what flipping the classroom entails. They didn’t care anyway, because they wanted nothing to do with it. My headmaster tells a similar story about a board meeting somewhere in the mid-90s where a group of people spent a few hours debating exactly what they would do with this ‘Fax machine thing’.

Again, there’s little point in me waffling on about the need to change, because I know I’m probably preaching to the converted. What I think is worth pointing our here, though, is what I predict is going to happen in the sphere education fairly soon:

  1. The nature of the classroom is very quickly, and very suddenly, going to have to change fundamentally. Students are simply not going to want to (or even be able to) sit in a room for 45 minutes listening to someone talk at them. On top of that, they’re going to get tired of sitting for almost 8 hours a day (which is an international flight), which is good, because according to this article, sitting is probably the worst thing they could be doing.
  2. The idea of what constitutes fact is going to shift, and again I suspect this is going to be a fairly sudden change. With ubiquitous connection to an up-to-the-second encyclopaedia which contains essentially the gamut of human knowledge, finding, processing and dealing with information is a very different thing to what many of us recall having to do at school.
  3. Work is going to become increasingly more relevant to the real world, or people are going to stop subscribing to it. Nearly every person I speak to will be able to talk about content they learnt at school that now has absolutely no bearing on their life at all. Increasingly, we’re going to see people like Dale Stephens or Logan LaPlant take charge of their education to make it work for them rather than subscribing to the ‘one size fits all’ mentality that most of us decry on a daily basis. If schools want to keep bringing students in, they need to provide them with something they need in their lives, and not just a bunch of information they’re mostly going to forget after the test anyway. Students have to take charge of their own learning or else it simply becomes something that happens to them rather than something they have an active role in moulding.
  4. Assessment is going to need to see a fundamental change. Divergent, creative, ‘out-there’ thinking needs to be encouraged, nurtured and developed (in that order) so that we can help students take advantage of the wonderful innovations which are on offer on an almost daily basis rather than become passive, mindless consumers of them.
  5. A culture of being enthusiastic about embracing new innovations (hopping onto the bandwagon, so to speak) needs to be encultured. Students should have opportunities to work with exciting new products and should be exposed to news ways of approaching the world. Virtual Reality is going to  change the way we interact with the world fundamentally. It is going to do this so significantly that I don’t think many of us can appreciate it. I must reiterate, this is not going to happen in the distant future: the iPad is 6 years old this year, the iPhone is almost 10.

These thoughts are but a scratching of the tip of an iceberg, and it should be exciting us and filling us with anticipation or else the iceberg could well prove to do the same to education as it did to a certain ship some years back…

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