One of the most difficult expectations to have is to ask an adult
with a past life experience is to plan for the future experience
of a student in their care. As adults, we bring our bag of knowledge
and try to give its contents to our children believing that somewhere
those contents will provide them with what is needed to shape
their lives. We fail to recognise that society's knowledge is
doubling every 3-4 years (and most of this knowledge will only
ever be published digitally) and that 80% of the tools that our
primary aged students will use in their working lives have yet
to be invented!
How can we ask our educational planners to cope with this scenario?
We are entering a huge technology growth age characterised by
accelerated development of microchip-based tools and rapid communications.
Already developed are microchips that enable the human to instruct
tools to act in different ways leg microwave programming) and
miniaturised phones that enable roaming virtually anywhere on
Earth - voice and data.
Authors, such as our own Gordon Dryden (The Knowledge Revolution
1997), are warning of the need for our teaching methodology and
content in our schools to change rapidly to cope with future basic
skills. If we give what we have always given, we'll get what we've
always got - that is no longer acceptable!
Students need to become knowledge architects - provided with
the tools that will allow exploration, the skills that will enable
navigation and the facilitators that will encourage and provide
content and reason for their construction. We need learning environments
that value risk taking and collaborative involvement. If our future
generation is to survive in the global community of tomorrow,
we must move quickly away from providing normalised testing procedures
in schools that rate past knowledge highly whilst ignoring the
skills we should be encouraging.
While many of our classrooms espouse the philosophy of producing
independent learners only a small number teach our students methods
of creative thinking, fewer still teach our students how to move
their levels of thinking from the concrete to synthesis and abstraction.
Where we do see emphasis on methodology in learning we can celebrate
students whose achievements are exciting and challenging -unfortunately
these settings are often primary school based with their graduates
disappearing into the formalised system based on knowledge examinations
of the past.
In providing a future skill set for our current students we must
focus on digital media. Our children are quite capable of digital
thinking, indeed many already thrive on the world of interactive
computer scenarios - few adults can even navigate the world of
Myst and Riven. As their world becomes a stream of digital information
enabling instant access to knowledge that we adults do not even
know exists, the generation gap will become a chasm.
Direct communication with the international authors of new knowledge
is already happening daily in many of our primary school classrooms
- indeed the interaction with such authors is itself often the
catalyst for new inquiry. The luckiest of our students are part
of the future today - the vast majority are not.
Overthe last few years we have seen the mushrooming of a new
occupation - that of web page designer. Amongst the leaders of
that growing market are teenage developers because the older group
of workers have no history with digital design, what's possible,
what's needed, how to create a digital space that appeals to and
communicates with the visitor!
The educational outputs of the digital world are not paper based
- but remains digital: CD-like media is used via some output device,
web sites are linked with communication devices. We will shortly
see output to holograms with multimedia sensory stimulants. Intelligent
digital agents will interpret the users requests and provide an
interactive forum between and stored information sources or other
Our world is changing increasingly rapidly. We must address the
changes and plan for the change process - this change should start
with our children in school. While as adults we demand the historic
basics from our schools - for our children's sake we need to demand
the new basics!