All educators are familiar with the concept of the learning pit.
When we first start out with a new skill – whether it is a swimming stroke, writing, mapping or playing an instrument – we always struggle/make things a bit worse before we start to see success. Then we improve, iterate based on feedback – either personal or from others. As we improve on this skill, we start seeing/making an impact – faster times, more fluent writing, accurate maps, beautiful music.
I have recently been wondering if this is what is happening with humans now? With many a head bow to David Attenborough here – we are now living in the Anthropocene. The age of humans. For most of life on Earth, nature has determined our existence, now humans determine nature’s existence.
The Industrial Age was the start of when humans had more influence over nature. Our technological advances gave us great societal advances but what we didn’t realise at the time was that it also had other consequences. Now we have global awareness that we have put ourselves into the pit. Gradually, over the last few decades, we have noticed and received feedback about our impact on the world. Think Ozone layer, Great Pacific Garbage Patch and of course, Climate Change – or in fact Climate Crisis now organisations like The Guardian are calling it.
This is what in future will be considered a major turning point in history. Exponential changes will occur in society & technology over the next decade or so as we take action to create a more sustainable future. I firmly believe that this future involves a balance that covers the environment, wellbeing and technology.
An age of innovation is needed to lead a global revival rather than seeing society go into decline. But, just like the Learning Pit, we are doing this and exiting the “stuck” phase. We are now at the start of an upswing – green innovations and emerging technologies that will allow us to live a better life. Think Tesla’s efficient electric cars (https://www.tesla.com/models), Perpetual Plastic Project’s recycling of waste into 3D printer filament (http://www.perpetualplasticproject.com/) and technology like Nous (https://getnous.app/) enabling those with physical disabilities to communicate through computers.
We have just been delivered a “Wellbeing Budget” in NZ and this must go hand in hand with innovation. It is not one or the other. It is utilising these together that will enable us to create an age of innovation that allows humans to exit our learning pit. This will impact and change sectors of our life dramatically – health, wellbeing and yes, education.
To me, this is what I think of when the term “future focused education” is bandied about. The future of society and our planet is in the hands of our children. We need to radically rethink education to grow the new generation that dare to dream and make our world a better place. How are we designing and creating an education experience that reflects, prepares and empowers students to fully participate in this changing world?
So, if the world has changed dramatically and the future is in the hands of our children; why are we still educating them in models from our past?
“By the time you are 50, you don’t want change, and most people have given up on conquering the world. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. You prefer stability. You have invested so much in your skills, your career, your identity, and your worldview that you don’t want to start all over again. The harder you’ve worked on building something, the more difficult it is to let go of it and make room for something new. You might still cherish new experiences and minor adjustments, but most people in their 50s aren’t ready to overhaul the deep structures of their identity and personality.” https://medium.com/s/youthnow/yuval-noah-harari-21-lessons-21st-century-what-kids-need-to-learn-now-to-succeed-in-2050-1b72a3fb4bcf
For evidence of this, look no further than the recent NCEA review. Thousands of hours of consultation plus thousands of dollars in advisory fees, all just for a few tweaks. Incremental shifts in a time of exponential change.
Incremental changes and tweaks at the edges are not enough. Forget multi-coloured desks, enrichment opportunities for a chosen few and some robotics one afternoon a week. Education needs to be reimagined and the people currently in power are not the ones who are going to do this. After all, they are the ones that benefit from the status quo.
Harari’s tip for helping kids be successful – get kids to know themselves. This is why we need a balanced, human approach. Wellbeing and knowing ourselves first. Then developing the technological abilities to master emerging technologies and use them to create and innovate. Develop their entrepreneurial skills so that students can make impact on the world around them. Create the future that they want. No longer be passive and flexible about the future, but create the future that they want to live in. They are citizens now, not citizens of the future as so many schools like to claim.
We need schools that value and grow every child’s gifts, turn difficulties into strengths, celebrate those that think outside the box and empower those that dare to dream, and care enough to act. We need to do this so our children are filled with purpose, and equipped with the skills they need realise to their passions and create a better future.
Doing things the same way we always have done so is no longer viable, sustainable or even relevant for our future.
So I finish with this final reflection: How is your school reimagining for an age of innovation?