Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Future of Learning

I am very interested in how the education system is changing.  Recent technological developments have lead people to think about the current education system and how it could be improved upon.  There seems to be a vast number of people in this position, constantly innovating, re-thinking and problem-solving and I think it is only a matter of time before their concepts and ideas are accepted and rolled out into mainstream education.

I though I’d share four videos with you of people that hold a vision of the future of learning.  It would be interesting to hear your thoughts and to see if you agree, so please do comment.  I’ve written a brief summary of each, in case for whatever reason, you can’t watch the video and also just so you have access to the information written down.

 1. The future of Learning, Networked Society – Ericsson


  • Factory-like system of education is not good enough any more (we no longer have a shortage of factory workers).  The education system is there for children, so it should adapt to them, not the other way around.  
  • In the past, schools were a way to access information.  That is no longer what they are needed for; anyone with an internet connection can access information.  Knowing facts is almost obsolete, there are answers everywhere, we need to teach children to be learners and know how to access information.  
  • We need to analyse and tailor learning like we do most other things in life.  Newton provides a means to do this.  Newton captures data and provides online courses personalised to individual students.  It also provides insights such as, ‘you work best at maths between 9.30 and 10.42am’ and so on, to achieve the best learning possible.
  • Connectivity is opening up the world.
  • Educate the youth and you educate a nation.
  • Exams are inadequate.  When taking an exam, children think “I hope there are no surprises”.  But the world is full of surprises.  Education prepares you to cope with certainty.  Learning prepares you to cope with surprises.
  • No one does standardised tests for a living, so why measure people on how good they are, in a way that is irrelevant in later life?  Parents want their children to go to good colleges and universities.  Those institutes are ‘good’ and famous because they are more selective about which grades they accept.  Therefore, you need to get good grades to get into these institutions, which is not real learning.  The system is flawed and described as a ‘scam’.
  • Coursera – online access for everyone, for free.
  • Huge leap in education pre and post-printing press.  Online education could be like that.
  • Education is less and less about conveying content.  Instead, it should be about the instructor engaging the child and teaching them generic skills such as self-discipline and problem solving.
  • We should be teaching children to solve difficult problems, not memorise answers to problems we have already solved.
  • School should be more about telling children a topic and letting them learn about it and figure it out.
  • More children will be educated in the next 30 years than ever in history – should we not try to get it right?

2. Rethinking Learning – The 21st Century Learner: MacArthur Foundation


  • It is important for us to teach children to love to embrace change.
  • In the 21st century, it is important to have curiosity and a questioning disposition, or a ‘gaming disposition’.  Gamers are incredibly bottom-line oriented; they want to be constantly measured to see how they are improving.  There is often a mantra of ‘If I’m not learning, it isn’t fun.’
  • The 20th century was centred around learning content.  In the 21st century, it is about learning the tools and skills to obtain, re-make and produce content.
  • Informal learning (e.g. learning that takes place at home, with peers, in a community) is as important as a formal education.  We need to figure out a way of linking and synchronising the two.
  • 21st century education needs to be not just about employment but about the whole of life.

3. Salman Khan Describes Future Classrooms with Blended Learning: edutopia


  • Currently, education is largely centred around the learning of facts and so on and it rarely gets close to creativity and open-endedness.
  • The Khan Academy is a virtual learning environment where the content and teaching is done via videos and other virtual means.  
  • Salman Khan appreciates the importance of learning the traditional things.  However, he thinks that the Khan Academy can address this element of education.  Children could access the videos and so on at home, which would free up more class time for creative, hands-on, relevant lessons.  It would also allow teachers more time for one-to-one instruction.
  • Virtual and physical education can work together, they are not mutually exclusive.  They can enhance one another.

4. Thomas Suarez


  • Thomas Suarez is a very young man who has taught himself to develop Apps such as his Bustin Jieber App (a Justin Bieber Whac-a-Mole).
  • Children want to make games and Apps, but don’t really know where to go to learn.  There are violin lessons and soccer practices, where do you go to learn to programme?  (Thomas might be interested in using Raspberry Pi)
  • Thomas taught himself the basics of other programming languages and then used Apple’s Software Development Kit to develop Apps that are available on the App Store.
  • He started an App club at school that teaches students to design and develop Apps.
  • Students usually know more about technology than teachers.  This is a huge resource that teachers should really be making use of.
  • In the future, amongst other things, Thomas wants to find more ways for students to share knowledge with each other.

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