Technology. It’s reshaping nearly every facet of our lives. From commerce to agriculture, communication, the media, trade and travel: our world is being remade by the digital age.
The future of education is altering too: tech is affecting not only the ways in which education can be delivered (and learning experiences enhanced, personalised and made more immersive), but the objective of education itself is up for review.
To the extent that education, broadly defined, should equip young people with the ability to thrive within and contribute meaningfully to the societies in which they live, education needs to change with the times. Tech-savviness is increasingly crucial in the working world; digital literacy the new must-have.
As much as our down-time has been influenced by the digital age – consider everything from the perpetual connectivity made possible by social media to the instant gratification of shopping online – our up-time has altered as well.
Job descriptions unheard-of even ten years ago now crowd the web. The ability to code (preferably across a range of languages) is becoming a huge asset; even outside of the tech space, a great number of professions now demand a high degree of digital literacy. Schools need to be aware of the demands that will face their graduates when they leave the school gates – and equip them accordingly.
Yet more changes are reshaping the working world young people must navigate: freelancing is greatly on the rise, entrepreneurs are seemingly popping up all over, and innovative online businesses abound. Empowered by the web, crowd-funding and an understanding that the world can be your oyster – if you’ve got the digital tools to crack it open – we read about the young guns dubbed “disruptive innovators”: sometimes whole industries are shaken by their leaner, sleeker business models and unorthodox approaches.
Literacy goes digital
To the extent that schools have needed to produce both numerate and literate graduates, digital literacy is the new must-have addition. A basic understanding of programs and processes (everything from Excel to internet research) should provide a basic underpinning. Of course, many young people grow up immersed in tech from a young age. Often, they are very digitally adept without training; they learn new skills quickly, too.
For those young people without personal access to computers, however, schools and skills programs will need to close the gap, ensuring that these increasingly integral technologies are accessible to all needing to hone their digital smarts.
Change is coming from all sides. When scanning the web for developments in education, one finds oneself uncovering examples of what might easily have passed for science fiction twenty years ago – virtual reality learning environments, wearable technology (the Internet of Things), every child learning from his or her own tablet computer, teachers having, as is the case in some schools, personalised the learning content for each student.
Robotics, programming … far from being the geek-fest they once were, tech is becoming cooler, popularised by the looming figures of techpreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.
While we’re not quite there, of course – and certainly, the first world far outpaces much of the developing world in terms of the ability to integrate technology into students’ learning experiences – some schools are not far off from paperless (or near-paperless) classrooms. Given the rate at which technology develops and accelerates, it is not inconceivable to imagine a future educational landscape in which the digital dominates.
As bewildering as much of this may be, it seems that technology will continue to light the way in many aspects of life. To the extent that education’s mandate is to prepare young people for the world they will face beyond the school grounds, the education system had better keep pace.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, George Postoronca.