One of my favourite cartoons from Tottering By Gently has got Dicky (older aristocrat) sitting in his London club with a half empty bottle of whisky in the foreground.
I felt I was hearing more of the same sitting in the Edtech Summit this morning, including watching a clip from Spielberg’s Warhorse movie, where the cavalry charge (read traditional school system) gets mown down by machine guns (read new technology). The Future of Education is not what it used to be.
Of course the reason for spouting dubious nonsense at 10am was not excess whisky, but a desire to court controversy. So let me unpack some of the more contentious statements for our level-headed audience!
“Teaching is facing an unprecedented challenge to prepare students for a new world of technology”, Lord Puttnam
Yes, the world is changing – but then it always has. Teachers two generations ago had to prepare students for a post-industrial society where jobs used abstract desk-based skills rather than predictable factory tasks. Was that not also a challenge?
And worrying too much about the world our children will grow into is futile. I remember a futurology book from 1985 which had many accurate predications like flat-screen TVs, electric cars and GPS watches – which are just coming true 20 years out. But the real social revolutions of the mobile phone and internet were missed completely.
A tech-obsessed teacher back then may have been teaching the inner workings of a fax machine or Casio watch … which would have been less useful than a good grasp on Shakespeare for 2000s office life.
‘Teachers in 10 years time will spend a lot less time creating resources – they will just pick the top content from around the world’ Jose Ferreira, Knewton
This is partly true. Through Teachable and other sites teachers are already cherry picking the most useful material to reuse.
But our member teachers constantly tell us how they see creating / adapting resources for their students is part and parcel of their role. That’s why Teachable allows you to download most content in an editable format.
What will emerge our online tools like Zondle which enable you to build your own ‘content’ which students can use interactively on mobiles or other platforms.
“Textbooks have a very poor form factor and won’t exist in 10 years time”, Jose Ferreira, Knewton
Five years ago I would have told you of the imminent death of textbooks – and the imminent switch to Teachable downloads. However, textbooks are still around today, alongside lots of digital content. Indeed printing text on dead trees turns out to have enduring attraction:
- Textbooks can be dropped from any height and still work
- Textbooks wear out, so publishers can make a sustainable living off re-publishing the same niche content
- Textbooks don’t need a reliable internet connection or power to work
Most importantly, textbooks free up your tablet / laptop to be used for interactive. Visiting The Cedars School in Greenock last year, I was surprised to see one of the first iPad-only schools with books all over their desks. “Don’t you want the content on the iPads”, I asked the teacher naively. “Oh no, because it much harder to switch between writing on the iPad and reading the text on screen.”
There were predictions I agreed with, such as ‘teaching in the class will increasingly focus on what robots (self-learning activities) can’t do well – grey or complex topics’.
But the future has always been changing. And always will.