Robot teacher future of education?

The Future of Education

Do you think the current education system (wherever you live in the world) adequately prepares children for the future of life and work? Should it? Do you think children will still "go to school" 100 years from now? Why?

These are just some of the questions I'm asking children, adults, parents and educators to provide their opinion on in the anonymous survey here. (Please click on the link to open the survey in a new window and please be rest assured that NO personal data, signup OR email is required - I'm not building a list of any kind - I just genuinely want opinions).

** PLEASE NOTE ** This post was written "pre COVID19" as the project began in November 2019. It was supposed to be a "glimpse of a possible / plausible future scenario" but in the light of current events now looks to be an accelerated reality!

I have committed to contribute a chapter on "The Future of Education" for a collaborative book project called "The Future Starts Now" co-ordinated by Theo Priestly and Bronwyn Williams that will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing. The project is designed to get everyone thinking about the futures we don't want to live in as well as those we want to create and perhaps accelerate.

As a "Fractional Futurist" I spend the bulk of my time tracking changes in TIPS (Technologies, Innovations, Patents and Startups) in order to help people and organisations understand the impacts and implications of change and envision multiple possible, probable and plausible futures such that they might begin to build towards a preferable future of their choosing.

There is no such thing as the (singular) future. There are an infinite number of paths for us to explore but if we change nothing, then nothing will change. Click To Tweet

I personally have a strong opinion about the way education might be delivered in the future and I have previously shared a partial glimpse of this in a short story submitted as a chapter to another collaborative book project I was involved in back in 2018 (I'm happy to share my chapter with you for free if you drop me an email using the "hello" link at the bottom of the page - but only AFTER you have anonymously shared your opinion in the survey linked above as I don't want to taint your views 😏).  This time around, I plan to dive a bit deeper and I am soliciting input from as many different people as I can in order to help shape the narrative of the story that will emerge.

One of the first interviews I completed as research for this project was with 12 year old Arsam Matin aka "Arsam Futurist", the first and youngest member of  the World Future Studies Federation (WFSF) and co-founder of Gen Z Futurists. Born in Iran in 2008, becoming a refugee in Turkey at age 7 and now living in Kurdistan, Arsam was originally home-schooled by his mother (Mina) until she met Dana Marduk (Ibrahim) a few years ago. Dana has had a major impact on Arsam's life by introducing him to the concepts of future studies and fuelling his passion for personal learning and development. Arsam is tri-lingual (plus currently learning a 4th language) and incredibly articulate, with a grasp on the current challenges faced by the world both now and in the future that far exceeds his peers that spend their days attending traditional schools - not bad for someone that has never set foot in a traditional school for a single day in his life! The goal of Gen Z Futurists is to completely disrupt the current education system and their ambition over the next 10 years is to get 1 billion people to join their platform and share knowledge and skills across the world.

There is nothing quite like a crisis to force people to think differently. Click To Tweet

The current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is forcing people to rethink traditional education constructs as we have already seen a few schools temporarily close amidst fears of contamination - how long can they stay shut before this has a serious impact on a child's education? What alternative means can be employed to continue their education?

In many parts of the world, children have for many years been able to attend "virtual schools" where lessons are delivered by teachers and attended by pupils remotely via the Internet. Some schools in China have closed due to COVID-19 but teachers are continuing to provide lessons to pupils via video conferencing - in fact CNBC reports that Zoom (one of the most popular video conferencing services globally) has recently lifted the 40 minute call limit for free users in China for meetings of more than 2 people. The same article points out that Zoom has added 2.2 million monthly active users so far in 2020 - more than the 1.9 million that they added in the whole of 2019 (and their share price has jumped 40% ......).

Organisations like the British based MyOnlineSchooling has been offering British KS2 - A-level education to young people across the globe, as have many other such institutions based in USA, Australia and many other countries for many years. These organisations have primarily catered to children based in remote areas without access to a physical school or those with a disability, physical or emotional impediment that has meant that remote / home schooling has been the preferred option. This has also been a growing option amongst the generations of young people living life as nomads in the gig economy - they have made a conscious decision to live a life without geographic and physical location constraints and they have extended this to the way their children are educated.

In the past, parents might have hesitated to enrol children in online schools due to their own bias, the way they were educated or due to work commitments that have required them to go to a physical place of work each day. They have preferred not to, or are have been unable to, leave their children at home alone. Sending them to (a physical) school has meant that their children have been in a safe place (questionable in some parts of the world) with care and supervision for most of the day.

These attitudes and perceptions are changing and as with most change, it takes place slowly at first and then all at once! Click To Tweet

COVID-19 has also forced many companies to rethink their own remote working policies and we have recently seen a sudden increase in organisations encouraging their employees to work remotely in order to minimise their time in a physical office. This particular case resonates deeply with me as my wife suffers from an incurable kidney condition and she lives with a severely compromised immune system due to the medication. She will be at extremely high risk if she contracts COVID-19 from a co-worker! Remote working reduces her risk of exposure both in the physical offices (she works across 3 different geographic locations) and during her normal commute on public transport, which would normally be for at least 2-3 hours per day amongst thousands of people every week.

So for now, we have a unique set of circumstances brought about by a global crisis - an increase in the number of people working remotely / from home and a growing number of schools concerned about the increased risk they will put young people at if they remain operating as they are.

If this all blows over quickly, most people will simply revert back to the way it's always been. Click To Tweet

BUT ........ the longer this takes to resolve, the more likely it is that new habits and patterns will develop and more people and organisations become more accepting and supportive of remote working practises - which will have new impacts and implications possibly not considered as yet.

Increased remote working and remote schooling could have a positive impact on family life simply due to the amount of time gained from no longer commuting to work or school. It could also have a positive impact on transport and a reduction in pollution. Of course there would be new challenges to face and I'm unaware of studies into the the impacts and implications of this taking place on a sudden and massive scale (if you know of any then please point me in their direction) - whatever the outcome, I'm sure that many people will be reconsidering their current work / life / school practises.

This is a future that many of us have envisaged, desired, worked towards and indeed many families already live and work like this around the world - it's just not the norm - yet ...........

The World Economic Forum released a report a while ago that stated that the majority of children currently in primary education globally, will be entering into jobs that haven't even been invented yet - how are we preparing them to face the future? What skills will they need? Where and how will they learn those?

We are at a point where the convergence of a number of technologies like AI, VR, AR, 5G and cheap(er) access to the internet and technology are enabling new ways of learning and I for one believe that the future of education will look very different to the past.

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts by completing the survey and please share this article or the link to the survey with as many people as you can and if you are an adult with children then please could you complete it multiple times as there is a seperate path in the survey with different questions for young people currently in education. I am of course also looking for input from educators across the globe - the future of education impacts us all!

The story of the future is not yet written - let's make it a good one!