Information Age Education Blog
Education for the Future
One of the unifying goals of education is to help prepare students for their possible futures. To do this well, we must forecast likely futures and provide students with an education that will help them to thrive in these possible futures. We must also prepare students to adapt to unforeseen changes. Thus, forecasting the future is an important aspect of designing and implementing a good educational system.
IBM recently published its annual five-year forecast for technological changes. See:
Relaxnews (12/17/2013). IBM sees five tech-powered changes in next five years. Yahoo News. Retrieved 12/20/2013 from http://news.yahoo.com/ibm-sees-five-tech-powered-changes-next-five-090614295.html.
Quoting from the article:
IBM said that its annual forecast of five ways technology will change lives in the coming five years was "driven by a new era of cognitive systems where machines will learn, reason, and engage with us in a more natural and personalized way."
An Education Forecast
Quoting IBM’s five-year forecasts about education:
Predictions for the coming five years included "classrooms of the future" equipped with systems that track and analyze each student's progress to tailor curriculum and help teachers target learning techniques.
"Basically, the classroom learns you," IBM vice president of innovation Bernie Meyerson told AFP. "It is surprisingly straight-forward to do."
The forecast is saying that we have the knowledge and technology to greatly individualize instruction. Years of research in computer-assisted learning have led to the current “computer tutor” forms of Highly Interactive Intelligent Computer-assisted Learning (HIICAL) systems. See http://i-a-e.org/component/easyblog/entry/requiring-online-learning.html?Itemid=58, http://i-a-e.org/component/easyblog/entry/providing-0ne-to-0ne-computing-starting-in-the-first-grade-or-earlier.html?Itemid=58, and http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/243-creating-an-appropriate-21st-century-education. So, we know that this can be done, and we are making progress in doing it. The forecast is that we will make even more rapid progress in the near future.
IBM’s forecast then goes on to list specific applications of the steadily increasing artificial intelligence of computer systems. In essence, there are many complex problems that people and our societies face, and computer technology can help address these problems.
What is Missing in the Education Forecast?
There is a major issue that is missing from the education forecast. If a computer can solve or greatly help in solving a category of problems, what do we want our schools to help students learn about this category of problems? It is easy to forecast that we will make progress in individualizing instruction. But, will we make progress in significantly changing the content of the curriculum?
This is a very challenging question, because there are so many stakeholder groups involved in the curriculum content issue. As adults, we function in an open book, open computer, open connectivity environment that includes a steadily increasing collection of powerful computerized tools that help us at work, at play, and in other daily tasks.
Let’s take a very simple example that has been with us for a long time. I wear an inexpensive battery-powered, transistorized digital multi-function watch. I use it a number of times a day to solve problems of what time is it, what day of the week is it, and what day of the month is it. I can also use it as a stopwatch. There is a huge difference between knowing explicit answers to these “time” questions and understanding what the answers mean. It is relatively easy to learn to read the answers from a watch, but it is difficult to learn to make effective, reasonable, and appropriate use of these answers.
The same type of observations can be made about tools that are readily available and relatively easy to learn how to use. For example, consider a smart phone that can be used to communicate with people and machines, and that can provide access to a camera, electronic media, and games. Grade-school-age children readily develop considerable skill in using this tool. But, it takes many years of increasing maturity and life skills to use it in an effective, reasonable, and appropriate manner.
Although school may seem like an endless drag to some students, the total number of hours of formal school per year devoted to K-12 education is small relative to the totality of accumulated human knowledge. The changing technological aids to representing and solving problems provides us with an opportunity to prune our traditional curriculum and insert technology-based aids to help solve both traditional problems and problems that can only be addressed through use of the technology. I believe the future of education lies in finding an appropriate balance between traditional content and teaching methodology, and more modern teaching/learning methodologies and curriculum content.
What You Can Do
Spend some time thinking about possible futures of education and possible roles you can play in shaping these futures so that children get a good education. You know that the world is changing rapidly. How do your students view the current pace of change? Spend some time talking to students about how they view our educational system and what they think would make it better.
Suggested Readings from IAE
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button. Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries. Here are some examples of IAE publications that might interest you.
21st century skills. Retrieved 12/20/2013 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/21st-century-skills.html.
Educating students for their possible futures. Retrieved 12/20/2013 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/educating-students-for-their-possible-futures.html.
General educational goals in the United States. Retrieved 12/20/2013 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/general-educational-goals-in-the-united-states.html.
Predictions about the future of computer technology. Retrieved 12/202013 from http://i-a-e.org/component/easyblog/entry/predictions-about-the-future-of-computer-technology.html?Itemid=58.
What the future is bringing us. Retrieved 12/20/2013 from http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.