Evolving Education To Meet the Needs of Society

The discussions we had during our weekly EC&I 832 class pertaining to the generational changes related to society and culture in the context of the use of technology and its place in society spawned in my mind numerous trains of thought.  My initial thoughts led me to reflect on the place of education in society.  Subsequently, I thought about the place of technology in society and how the two worlds of education and technology intersect today and potentially in the future.

The place of education in society

When looking at the historical place of education in society, we cannot deny that education is at the basis of most of the aspects of everyday society we know today.  Education has brought reading, writing, mathematics and science to the masses over the past few hundred years.  This has transformed our society and fostered an incalculable amount of financial and technological wealth from which we all benefit on a daily basis.  In the past, with limited access to good information in sufficient quantities, educational institutions and its educators were stewards of their siloed subjects and transmitters of knowledge.  Schools were a means for the next generation to improve society and advance the state of the art.  One could argue that education historically led societal change by facilitating the propagation of information and knowledge.  As a result, education was the stimulus for many of the advancements in technology we have come to use on a daily basis.

With the advent of the free flowing of information that resulted from the arrival of the internet.  Information is no longer a commodity that is transmitted and fostered by the academic world.  Modern educational systems have been slow in transforming to this new reality of free and unlimited access to information.  We could almost say that education has been left behind by the pace of technological development.  Being a science teacher, I tried to summarize this idea in the following graph.

transformation vs time

The place of technology in society

Today, one could argue that technology is leading societal change with much more vigor than that of education.  As witnessed though our exploration of generational frameworks and the implications it has on digital literacy and citizenship, technology is an important part of the foundation of society we know today.  Our identities, our values and our beliefs are evolving though means like social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), electronic mass media (YouTube, TicToc, Reddit) and communication technologies (Facetime, Skype, WeChat, iMessage).  The world is only a few clicks away and we no longer need to seek information, in many cases, information seeks us.

The intersection of technology and education: What needs to change?

When new technologies are introduced into our world and become ubiquitous, society can quickly transform.  The internet and mass communication technologies have transformed the basis of how society functions.  Citizenship is no longer just a set of interactions in the real world, citizenship now encompasses online and real-world interactions.  As Nathan Jurgenson mentions in his article The IRL Fetish :

« The clear distinction between the on and offline, between human and technology, is queered beyond tenability. It’s not real unless it’s on Google; pics or it didn’t happen. We aren’t friends until we are Facebook friends. We have come to understand more and more of our lives through the logic of digital connection. Social media is more than something we log into; it is something we carry within us. We can’t log off. »

With the real world and the online world quickly becoming simply, the world, education must be able to integrate this new reality.  Education cannot compete in the market of information dissemination, that is no longer a need that modern society requires.  Consequently, a new role for education must be defined in response to the current needs of society.

Education as a tool to fulfill new societal needs

The NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Hight Education Edition highlights 10 large themes that will have to evolve in education to meet new needs of society:

  1. Advancing progressive learning approaches requires cultural transformation.

  2. Real-world skills are needed to bolster employability and workplace development.

  3. Collaboration is key for scaling effective solutions.

  4. Despite the proliferation technology and online learning materials, access is still unequal.

  5. Processes for assessing nuances skills at personal level are needed.

  6. Fluency in the digital real is more than just understanding how to use technology.

  7. Online, mobile, and blended learning are forgone conclusions.

  8. Learning ecosystems must be agile enough to support the practices of the future.

  9. Higher education is an incubator for developing more intuitive computers.

  10. Lifelong learning is the lifeblood of higher education.

IMG_5850All of these large themes are currently being addressed by numerous ways in all educational circles.  We can see many parallels between these themes and the numerous “Portrait of a Graduate” examples we scanned during our last class.  We also see parallels from the themes we chose in our small group activity this past week where we had to establish a list of qualities students should have when finishing school.  Here is a picture of the notes we gathered that night in just a few minutes.

A vision of modern education

I’m not yet confident enough as a student of educational technology to have a good vision for the future of education.  At this point, I take large amounts of inspiration from the work being done in the domain or Open Educational Practice (OEP) and Open Educational Resources (OER).  I see the world of education moving towards dynamic learning environments where learning follows different paths for each individual student.  I see more energy expended in teaching media and digital literacy skills and less time spent helping student acquire and learn specific content.

This might be a crude analogy, but I foresee education becoming closer to a master-apprentice system.  Like a student walking into a woodshop for the first time, all the tools that are there allow for this student to build almost anything he or she would like.  In this situation, the first thing a student needs to do is learn WHAT the tools do.  Then, students must learn HOW to use these tools in a safe and responsible way.  Once these first two skills are acquired, they can start building simple projects in a supervised manner in order to gain EXPERIENCE in the domain.  The constant feedback loop provided by peers as well as teachers allow each student to EVOLVE their skills in their OWN WAY.  Some students will evolve to carpentry, some will evolve to making furniture and some will evolve in other ways.  Once they leave the classroom, they should have the confidence needed to KEEP LEARNING new woodworking skills throughout their lives.

Our students have at their disposal all the technological tools they need to succeed in life.  Here is my vision of a students’ path in a modern educational setting.  (*notice how few words I have changed from my original analogy) A student walks into a school for the first time, all the technological and educational tools are there to allow for this student to build almost any skill or knowledgebase he or she would like.  In this situation, the first thing a student needs to do is learn WHAT the tools do.  Then, students must learn HOW to use these tools in a safe and responsible way. Once these first two skills are acquired, they can start building simple projects in a supervised manner in order to gain EXPERIENCE in the domain.  The constant feedback loop provided by peers as well as teachers allow each student to EVOLVE their skills in their OWN WAY.  Some students will evolve to become engineers, some will evolve to become artists and others will become something else.  Once they leave the classroom, they should have the confidence needed to KEEP LEARNING new skills throughout their lives.

How can we provide this type of environment for our students?  I’m not 100% sure, but I’m working on it!  How about you?

3 thoughts on “Evolving Education To Meet the Needs of Society

  1. Great reflection, Daniel! I love how you use OER and OEP as sources of inspiration and how you focus on your students’ needs. I think it is very important to create an environment that students can communicate and collaborate will encourage curiosity and independence and allow space for creativity. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Loved the list of qualities a graduate should have…so vague yet so valuable. Wonder if the terms and at the time of #phrases of growth mindset, lifelong learner and critical thinker are truly grasped? Cant say, even as a teacher that I understand each of those, but find it interesting the power such phrases have students hear and believe. It does seem teachers continue to be the catalyst behind learning possibilities. Fingers crossed we are open to learn as they yearn to.

  3. As a math teacher (and teacher of graphs) loved your graph (still looking for the units though haha). Seriously, you are so right with that. I feel education is being left in the dust when it comes to the impact that we should have. We gotta get better and I think your analogies are on the mark. I’m working on it too my friend.

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