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Some Grand Global Challenges

Various disciplines create lists of Grand Challenge problems and tasks that are core to their area of research and practice. See Moursund (11/1/2011) for an example of Grand Challenges in Education. See http://the-scientist.com/2012/06/18/opinion-the-precarious-earth/ for examples of Grand Global Challenges such as sustainability. Also see DARPA (2012.)

Successsfully dealing with Grand Global Challenges requires the international cooperation of a significant portion of the world's population. That in itself is a grand global challenge. It is very difficult to get a number of nations to work cooperatively on anything!

Recently I encountered a video that presents a number of future of the world Grand Challenges. The video is one of a large collection of talks presented at a meeting discussing some of the Grand Global Challenges and how some pieces of these challenges can be addressed by individual people and companies (Google, 2012).

Some of the leaders at Google got the idea of bringing together a group of movers and shakers, people with good ideas and good understanding of how to implement their ideas. The focus was on the big problems (Grand Challenges) facing our world and people in this world that could be addressed by modern technology.

There are three important questions that distinguish a Grand Challenges Solve for X talk.

  • Does it highlight a huge problem?
  • Is there a concrete solution that could make a radical impact?
  • Does it explain breakthrough science and technology that could enable this solution?

Larry Page, a co-founder of Google and one of the sponsors of this meeting, is quoted as saying, “I want to do research and writing that lead to action.” That flavor is captured in the presentations.

The Google citation given above links to 21 videos of talks—most about 14 minutes in length. Topics include:

  • Learning by themselves.
  • Negative carbon liquid fuels.
  • Resources reclamation and sustainable abundance.
  • Global water scarcity.
  • Drug delivery.
  • Wireless connectivity everywhere—using much less power.
  • Agricultural productivity and efficient nutrition production.
  • Higher education impact.

I found Nicholas Negroponte's video presentation to be particularly interesting. As he continues his work to provide laptops to children in developing countries, he has observed that many children are using what they learn to help educate their parents. He believes that children who have no access to schools or literate adults may well be able to learn to read and write (on their own) from very inexpensive laptops. He is currently experimenting with this idea. (See http://iae-pedia.org/Nicholas_Negroponte.)

Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, gave a talk about the future of a modern university and what he is doing at ASU. I was very impressed by the ideas he presents. Quoting again from the Google citation:

Michael Crow…is designing the transformation of ASU into a new highly innovative, high speed adaptive knowledge enterprise which combines academic excellence, inclusiveness, and societal impact—a model he terms the 'New American University.'

What You Can Do

Identify some Grand Challenge problems that you and your students feel are really important. In your teaching, discuss how the subject content you are teaching relates to possible ways to explore and perhaps solve these problems.

A similar comment applies to you parents who are helping in the informal education of your children. What do you want your children to know about large problems faced by the world, their country, their state/province, their city/village, race, culture, religion, and so on?

Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications

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 publications that might interest you:

A well-intentioned and very bad educational idea. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-well-intentioned-and-very-bad-educational-idea.html.

Including computational thinking in habits of mind. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/include-computational-thinking-in-habits-of-mind.html.

Setting unreachable college-completion goals. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/setting-unreachable-college-completion-goals.html.

Researchable questions. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/in-math-education-and-other-disciplines-asking-the-right-researchable-questions.html.

References

DARPA (2012).What are grand technology and scientific challenges for the 21st century? NetworkWorld. Retrieved 10/12/2012 from http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/81573.

Google. (2012). Solve for X. Retrieved 2/14/2012 from http://www.youtube.com/user/wesolveforx?feature=watch.

 

Moursund, D. (11/1/2011). Grand Challenges in education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 2/14/2012 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/grand-challenge-problems-in-education.html.

 

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Comments

David Moursund (website) on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 00:39
Student education about global problems

Written by davem, March 18, 2012.

What should students know about global problems or about the major challenges in each discipline they study? My suggestion is that schooling should help students to understand global problems and what can be done to address them.

Moreover, as students study particular disciplines, part of what they study should be oriented toward gaining a better understanding of how the discipline can contribute to helping to address global problems.

Written by davem, March 18, 2012. What should students know about global problems or about the major challenges in each discipline they study? My suggestion is that schooling should help students to understand global problems and what can be done to address them. Moreover, as students study particular disciplines, part of what they study should be oriented toward gaining a better understanding of how the discipline can contribute to helping to address global problems.
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