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Is today’s educational system preparing children for tomorrow’s technology?

Posted by: James Boobyer
30/03/2017

 

We live in a world of unprecedented accelerated change, undergoing constant and rapid technological advancement, and it is fair to say that our current educational system is not keeping up pace.

Although coding was introduced to the educational system 3 years ago, and a third of schools now actively encourage children to use and bring technology to the classroom, educationalist author, Marc Prensky, claims the actual curriculum hasn’t changed much since the Victorian era. Schools are mainly focused on just adding technology into traditional teaching methods, the most basic being substituting paper for ipads.

But arguments for an overhaul of the curriculum based on the information age are gathering attention and support. Schools need to start bridging the technology gap in a much more meaningful way, rather than just as a way to fill time or as an alternative to a book. However, updating the educational system to encompass current developments simply isn’t going to be enough, it needs to be adaptable to the rapid change ahead with the added ability to amend the curriculum faster, because by the time a student goes through school; technology will have dramatically changed again.

We may be entering an age where what is learned in school becomes irrelevant to people 10 years after leaving traditional education as technology changes and people have to constantly reinvent themselves. Schools are just not ready for this, because they focus on standardised learning where everyone is taught the same information in the same way in order to fit into pre-determined parameters. But the focus needs to shift from acquiring knowledge to applying practical knowledge and this requires learning in a totally different way.

The switch from passive learning to active learning and from teacher centred methods to student centred methods, needs to be made. However, the issue here is that state schools simply do not have the funding to do this effectively. With class sizes continually increasing, how can teachers deliver a learning experience which meets every child’s individual needs?

This is where AI and technology can enhance learning in and out of the classroom and make it personal. Digital services such as Whizz, a virtual maths tutor and Third Space, one-to-one online maths tutoring, are beginning to boom.

Other applications such as Microsoft’s Minecraft gives children access to a new kind of creativity when learning by using pixelated worlds to teach them about a wide range of topics from resource management, planning, teamwork to problem solving. Further, these applications can collect and store real time information about student’s learning and progress, meaning that issues can be picked up and dealt with more quickly.

Teachers and schools shouldn’t be scared of these developments; instead they should be embracing them as effective support tools for teachers, not as robotic replacements. In some schools “flipped” classrooms have been trialled, where the majority of learning is done online outside of school at the student’s own pace and homework is done during class hours, with a teacher acting as a “guide”. 

This method is used at the not-for-profit Kahn Academy and it has surprised teachers how easily children can excel on their own with minimal teaching intervention. These new ways of learning create higher engagement, collaboration, experimentation and sense of accomplishment and allow for a much more targeted learning path for each student. Our educational system needs to be redesigned in order to prepare children to succeed in a future where AI will be integral to the workforce.

The argument is twofold; children need to be educated in appropriate skills for the future job market, in areas that AI won’t spill into and secondly, teaching children how to collaborate with AI. The problem is that this education for the future is new, and it requires a level of creativity, innovation and digital wisdom that we simply don’t have in our current educational system, so we will need to produce it.

Schools are simply not preparing children for the fourth industrial revolution and the major social change that will come with it. However there are barriers to rolling it out including a lack of funding and teacher’s own knowledge and technical ability, but these issues need to be resolved and quickly because AI in schools is no longer an option, its a necessity.

Arguably, a whole new core of subjects need to be introduced so that the focus is on teaching relevant skills to equip today’s learners for tomorrow’s world of work.

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