Learning 321: Education for the 3rd decade of the 21st Century:
Children who are studying at School today will be adults ready for further education or to face the world in the years from 2020 to 2030 and beyond.
This is the 3rd decade of the 21st Century and is a very different world from the one experienced by their grandparents,parents and teachers.
Their future is being shaped by two major forces: the 4th Industrial Age driven by Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and allied technologies like the Internet of Things, Blockchain, 3D Printing, AR and VR, and the 4th education revolution which is disrupting the traditional education model, propelled by the same technologies.
This leads to two very important questions. The first is what should a child learn in School to prepare for an Age of intelligent assistants that can fetch any information and do low level cognitive tasks, and the consequential question as to how do we teach what should be taught.
It is often said that change is the only thing that remains constant. But what we are experiencing is the rapid rate of the change itself. And it’s wider impact, across almost all fields of human endeavour.
Trying to accurately predict the future is futile. Perhaps becoming intelligent enough to build a perfect future is too. We must develop foresight and ready ourselves by being a pro-active self directed lifelong learner and defensively by building skills of critical thinking and discernment to prevent us from being swayed by misinformation.
This is the true objective of a good School education: to prepare children to prosper, flourish and thrive in an unknown and rapidly changing future.
I am listing below 10 salient features of this new educational paradigm:
1: Educators will be the most important members of Society. As we enter the rapidly developing knowledge society, very large numbers of people have to be trained in new knowledge and skills domains.
To put it into context, the OECD estimates that, owing to the fourth industrial revolution and automation, 38 to 42 per cent of the UK population will need to completely retrain in the next 10 years to be able to stay employed. That is a staggering amount of training required to keep the UK workforce and our industries productive and competitive.
While more and more learners will move towards autonomous learners, it is educators who will enable this transition and provide the resources and guidance for self-directed learners. Microsoft in 2017 proposed “ Deep Teaching” as the sexiest job of the future.
2: An educator takes a learner through 4 stages, in the journey from ignorance to knowledge, even if not clear to the learner:
1. Unconscious Incompetence : In the unconscious incompetence stage , the learner isn’t aware that a skill or knowledge gap exists.
2. Conscious Incompetence : In conscious incompetence, the learner is aware of a skill or knowledge gap and understands the importance of acquiring the new skill. It’s in this stage that learning can begin.
3. Conscious Competence : In conscious competence, the learner knows how to use the skill or perform the task, but doing so requires practice, conscious thought and hard work.
4. Unconscious Competence : In unconscious competence, the individual has enough experience with the skill that he or she can perform it so easily they do it unconsciously.
The four stages of competence are core to the algorithms used in adaptive learning technologies. By knowing in which stage a learner is for a particular topic, an adaptive learning platform can select content on that topic that will help the learner reach the next stage. It can even use assessments to demonstrate to learners that they have skills gaps, thus moving them from stage one to stage two.
This journey will be personalised for each learner and each learning goal by AI-fluent SmartEducators.
3: We are at the intersection of 2 fundamental revolutions : the 4th Industrial Revolution, announced by Klaus Schwab at the World Economic Forum in January 2016 and the 4th Education Revolution proposed in a recent book (2018) by Anthony Seldon. This is unprecedented for the whole world. Anthony Seldon says “ There is no more important issue facing education, or humanity at large, than the fast approaching revolution in Artificial Intelligence or AI. This book is a call to educators everywhere to open their eyes to what is coming. If we do so, then the future will be shaped by us in the interests of humanity as a whole.”
4: The recent advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have an important bearing on how we teach humans. We are now in a position to move from the art of teaching to the Science of learning. And achieve the goal of education for all, and the democratisation of education. The entire entrance test and coaching for the entrance test industry will be a thing of the past. So will the School leaving Board or University graduation final examinations. Assessments and feedback will become a continuous on-going process.
5: The mobile is the device for access to learning. UNESCO has been organising a Mobile learning week every year from the year 2012.
Mobile Learning Week is the United Nations’s flagship ICT in education conference. Held annually at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the event convenes experts from around the world to share how affordable and powerful mobile technology – from basic handsets to the newest tablet computers – can so accelerate learning for all, particularly people living in disadvantaged communities. Each year the event has a specific theme to focus discussions.
Holistically the event seeks to advance understandings of how technology can be leveraged by UNESCO Member States and others to improve education.
*2019: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its implications for sustainable development
* 2018: Skills for a connected world
* 2017: Education in emergencies and crises
* 2016: Innovating for quality
* 2015: Leveraging Technology to empower women and girls
* 2014: Teachers
* 2013: Mobile Learning and EFA Goals
* 2011: December: Using mobile Technologies to transform educational process and outcomes
UNESCO Mobile Learning Week 2020, the flagship ICT in education conference, will be held from 2 to 6 March 2020 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
First you learn to use the mobile. Then you use the mobile to learn.
Most mobile devices are now equipped with AI powered chips. The future of learning is therefore in your hands.
6: Learning will be a lifelong pursuit, with 3 broad stages, of which the first is pre-natal, neo -natal and pre-school learning. The new education policy 2019 has acknowledged that 85% of the child’s cognitive development happens by the age of 6 years.
7: The stage of School, College and University is the period during which a learner must acquire the skills and competence of learning how to learn and become an autonomous learner. The importance of learning how to learn has been acknowledged in the new education policy 2019 in the 3rd paragraph in the beginning and also at para 4.5 while dealing with School education.
8: For the rest of a person’s life, a person would be pursuing lifelong learning to continually learn, unlearn and re-learn to achieve his human as well as academic potential.
Blockchains will be used for academic credentials. Growth and widespread recognition of micro-credentials such as badges.
There is already a pilot experiment with a Blockchain University and an MIT supported Blockchain credentials system in edublocks.
9: In an unknown and uncertain future, instead of trying to find what we should teach during School, College or University, we should develop youth who love learning and having decided to learn something are capable of learning it well ( mastery learning). This is achieved by building learning power. ( ज्ञान ऊर्जा अर्जन)
10: MeetUps in co-learning spaces. While much of the learning will be ‘anytime anywhere’ occasional in person meetings would be organised at “co-learning spaces” to support in person peer and social learning.
The present didactic model of the ‘sage on the stage’ does not encourage live learning interactions between the learners in the classroom. This is OK when only the teacher is informed and knowledgeable and all the learners are ignorant, of the topic being dealt with during the lecture hour.
But in lifelong learning the learners are also informed and aware of what they want to learn. The dynamics in such a situation changes fundamentally, allowing for huge benefits from social peer learning.
If there are n students in a cohort, and the teacher is essentially in a single student teaching mode, then the quality of learner engagement reduces with increasing n as 1/n. That is why in good institutions there is an attempt to have a small teacher to student ratio, in the range of 1/10 to 1/20. If however the teacher is in a broadcast mode, like a text-book or a video, then the effectiveness is independent of the value of n.
But if the pedagogy is designed to encourage interactions between the learners, as happens in the digital environment, then the number of student interactions becomes n(n-1)/2 in pairs, or proportional to n squared. There may be smaller clusters with more than 2 students. Very soon, there is an overwhelming contribution to the discussions and construction of knowledge, leading to a better and richer experience.