In September of this year I was fortunate enough to attend the Sixth National Leading a Digital School Conference on the Gold Coast. (Guess it helped that I live there!) The keynote speakers on the first two days were Ian Jukes and Tony Ryan; very different but equally engaging presenters. Both spoke of the impact of “disruptive innovation” but at the time I didn’t appreciate the full implications of this term … that particular epiphany happened earlier this week.
What do I see in the future?
Photo Credit: youlovatt.com
The reality is that digital devices are now disrupting education as much as they are enhancing it. I like to think of myself as an early adopter; certainly I was the first teacher at my school to use an iPad in the classroom. However, I’m still surrounded by a large number of teachers who operate their classroom in the same fashion that they did twenty or more years ago … same product, very different customers! Now, back to the epiphany. My first step towards understanding came when I read the following tweet from Jeff Goldstein.
“How dare society force a child to sit in a classroom chair for seven hours and define what the child must find curious.”
The following day I read three separate articles which all made reference to the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project carried out in Ethiopia. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, here are the key deatails:
* A number of solar charged Motorola tablets were dropped off in two isolated Ethiopian villages with a very high illiteracy rate. Within minutes, young children had powered these up and within days they were using a large number of the included apps. Most astonishingly, after just a few weeks, the children had figured out how to “hack” and had removed various built-in restrictions.
* Though a very limited trial, this project suggests that “…young children have innate technology-related learning abilities that most adults patently lack.” (Andrew Stokes, “ICT: the age factor” in Issue 31 of Loud and Clear, November 2012) Those monitoring the project also witnessed children as young as 4 engaged in spontaneous collaboration as they solved “problems” with the tablets.
Peru has its own OLPC factories which have produced over one million units for the children of that nation.
Photo Credit: inhabitat.com
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?
I think there is one very obvious implication; children now have at their disposal devices which can enable them to learn largely unassisted. This can only lead to wider implications; implications that I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere … but here goes, choose your own imagined future.
1. Schools see the necessity to rethink age groupings and class structure. As a consequence children of varying ages are increasingly grouped together in order to allow greater collaboration and peer teaching.
2. Students demand assessment that is connected to the real world and as a result we see a rapid shift towards greater project based and community learning.
3. Governments accept that, as Sir Ken Robinson claims, “schools are killing creativity.” As a direct result they close large numbers of poorly attended “bricks and mortar” schools. At the same time, online universities are catering for huge numbers of “underage undergraduates.”
4. Being highly proficient with a whole range of (yet to be invented) devices, students as young as 10 begin specific on the job training for their first career.
5. The United Nations officially announces the “death of the teaching profession.” Thousands of teachers must eke out a living by selling 99 cent ebooks via their blog. (Now, there’s a retirement plan!)
Yes, this post has been deliberately provocative at times … and I’ve gone for (and hopefully gained) a few cheap laughs. However, I would welcome your comments and contributions. What does your crystal ball tell you about the future of education as we charge headlong into the next decade?