Over the last two years, I have written regularly in my blog and in other places of the growing rate of technological disruption that will forever change the nature of jobs, perhaps our way of life, and what that might mean for a high quality school education.
In discussions with parents and in responses to my writing I regularly run into both agreement and a reluctance to acknowledge that we are in the midst of significant change and that the rate of change is accelerating.
Yet in my reading, watching and listening to various media, indicators of the changes are becoming a part of the mainstream. A few examples follow.
Earlier this year I published a table that showed the changing nature of jobs comparing the 2011 to the 2016 Australian census, prepared by renowned demographer, Bernard Salt. This was originally published in The Weekend Australian May 5-6 2018, using ABS Census 2011 and 2016 data.
Well respected author, Yuval Noah Harari has published a collection of essays, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Many of these essays focus on the rapidly increasing rate of change due to AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Bio-technology and its affect upon individuals, communities and the human race.
Several essays written by Harari, Upgrading the World and From Natural Selection to Intelligent Design outline AI and Bio-Technological developments.
On a more practical and mundane level, the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, has introduced an AI news reader who vows to ‘work tirelessly to keep you informed’. This AI news reader is certainly not yet perfect but you can watch and listen to ‘him’ at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-09/china-artificial-intelligence-news-anchors-revealed/10480730
Even mainstream television, using humour to introduce important topics has introduced Bio-Technology topics that have ethical and moral dimensions. The ABC show, Tomorrow Tonight, in just its second episode discussed the possible genetic construction of The Perfect Baby.
These are just a few examples of many that point to rapidly emerging issues that will affect us all. They will most affect those of us who are young, those of us who are yet to enter the workforce and who will be alive and hopefully healthy well into the late 21st century. Thus the ramifications for school education are significant.
In The Age’s Good Weekend supplement of November 3, 2018 an article appeared that has garnered strong and numerous reactions in the online world and amongst parents and teachers with whom I have spoken since. Titled, There is a better way of teaching bored Australian students, it discusses the real issue of high levels of disengagement of students, especially high school students with their own schooling. The article estimates as many as 40% of students are disengaged with school.
Thankfully, this does not apply to students at The Knox School, nor to other good schools that attract engaged and supportive families. Therefore, the practical solutions outlined in the article are not directly applicable. However, the underlying philosophies and approaches outlined in the article could have been lifted directly from our long term strategy of developing a personalised approach to learning. The underlying philosophies and approaches have been a feature of our focus for several years and we are beginning to see some momentum building in the wider community that supports and vindicates our vision and our evolution towards that vision.
I still talk with adults, both within the teaching profession or my peer group of school leaders, as well as other adults who, while acknowledging that technological disruption may occur, assume it is far away, or will not affect their children, or can be managed with an education similar to the schooling that served them well. These people are well-intentioned but their approach will not meet the long term needs of today’s young people.
The smartphone is but ten years old and it has had an enormous influence, for good and ill, on our lives. It is one piece of disruptive technology. Imagine an influence like the smartphone magnified many times over!
There remains a strong case for the adults of today teaching and shaping their children or students. Yet other journeys through school are now equally important. It is not a case of either/or as was implied in the Good Weekend article, but rather this and that.
The development of character (read values lived and practiced every day; values such as resilience, responsibility, adaptability, and respect), and the capacity to connect with, care for others and contribute to a community, form a second journey.
The third journey is the development of skills and attitudes that provoke critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and high level communication. These are best developed within the context of traditional school disciplines.
It is through these three journeys through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood that we can best prepare our young people for a world that we cannot predict accurately. A world that will change quickly; more quickly than ever before, and the future will certainly not be as it is now.