A21st Century Learner’s Toolkit and a personal future readiness plan for School students

A 21st Century learner’s toolkit, and a personal future readiness plan for School students:

Flow of this narrative:

  • Backdrop
  • Need for a learners toolkit?
  • Features of the toolkit
  • Taxonomy of tools in the toolkit
  • List of tools in the toolkit
  • A personal future readiness plan for School students 


Backdrop :

Our education ecosystem comprises a few Institutes of excellence, which cater to a very small number of students and a large number of ordinary Institutions that serve the learning needs of millions. It has been considered axiomatic that quality can only be achieved at the cost of quantity. But our need today is of a high quality education for an aspiring billion or so, more so if we think of education as life-long learning rather than for a limited number of years and hours of receiving instruction at designated Institutions of Instruction. 

I have had the good fortune of being part of an exclusive learning community of the IITs, having received my Ph.D. in Physics from Roorkee University ( now an IIT),having been a faculty for about a decade at the IIT Kanpur, and a member of the Board of Management at IIT Delhi for 6 years. I have also been a faculty of Computer Science at the IGNOU, the National Open Univerdity for about 15 years. I therefore have a vision ( dream like that of Dr Martin Luther Kung) of providing high quality world class education to  everyone who is motivated and determined to put in the required effort. Not restricted to a chosen few, but available to millions. 

In 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan for eliminating poverty through sustainable development. One goal ( listed at no.4) on the agenda is to ensure everyone in the world has equal access to a quality education. It aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Specific targets include completely free primary and secondary education, access to updated education facilities, and instruction from qualified teachers.

In 2017 Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, predicted that robots would begin to replace teachers in classrooms within 10 years. It was a polarising statement that brought considerable debate to the world of automated education. Artificial intelligence will soon provide “an Eton education for all” in schools, allowing each pupil to learn from their own personalised device rather than from a teacher at the front of the class, he said.

Thomas Frey while speaking on the future of education stated  “If we continue to insert a teacher in between us and everything we need to learn, we cannot possibly learn fast enough to meet with the demands of the future”. 

Need for a learner’s toolkit ?

Estimate of teachers required to meet the targets of Goal 4, is around 69 million new teachers. Their identification, selection and training is a gigantic task. The only way to make meaningful progress is with the deployment of technology ( in particular Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) and empowering learners to become more self-directed autonomous learners. Instead of trying to provide young humans with the knowledge they might need (just in case), the role of education needs to equip people with the tools and skills to acquire knowledge themselves (just in time). 

We can draw parallels with the situation regarding the US Census of the year 1880, where the  collection and compilation of the data into usable form could not be completed until 1888. This in fact gave rise to the field of automated tabulation and computing and the company IBM. 

Why self-learning is important in the 21st Century : https://link.medium.com/UPyOnniy6lb

Where there is no doctor?

This very widely used book, was created for those parts of the world, where physicians are not available and diseases are rampant, until better solutions are created. It is based on the belief that people should take the lead in their own health care. While the first edition was published in 1970s,the English edition was published in 1992. 

To know more, follow this link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where_There_Is_No_Doctor

We now have a similar situation of “ when there is no teacher” for millions of prospective learners which is driving the need for AI empowered teacher-less education. 

In 1947, Dorothy Sayers delivered a speech at Oxford University with the title “ The lost tools of learning”. It has since been republished countless times due to its sheer eloquence and articulation of the 3 “lost tools” in classical education: grammar, logic and rhetoric. Dorothy Sayers 

had drawn attention to the trivium and quadrivium as essential elements of a sound education. This essay was written in the post-World War II era. She makes a strong case for the classical Trivium-Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric…in today’s parlance “critical thinking.” We could add Computational Thinking and creativity if we like triads. But there  is more to being adequately prepared for the exponential realm of the 21st Century and beyond. The key idea that I want to pick up from Dorothy Sayers is the concept of a tool-kit for learning, and what would it look like in early 2022 as we prepare for becoming ready for the 3rd decade of the 21st Century. 

What is a Toolkit ?

For our purposes, the meaning of a toolkit here is a collection of expert skills, knowledge, procedures, or information for becoming a successful learner in the 21st Century. 

Features of the toolkit

The big change needed is to transform passive learners suffering from ‘taughtitis’ to active learners …. https://youtu.be/JxWybvns1jg

The present goal of education seems to be to update you with the knowledge, information and skills that your predecessors have already acquired. This kit will empower you to learn what is needed when it is needed,and perhaps learn beyond your seniors. 

These resources will equip you to continue enhancing your knowledge by helping you learn, unlearn and re-learn to keep abreast of the latest advances in the frontiers of knowledge, and become a successful lifelong learner. 

This is your vaccine : against obsolescence, against unemployment, against irrelevance and the elixir to flourish and thrive in an unknown and uncertain future, sometimes referred to as a VUCA ( Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. More than any time earlier in history, we have a clear view of the MegaTrends in forthcoming technologies, but we don’t quite know how exactly they will play out in our lives. 

Taxonomy of tools in the toolkit: 

The tools for learning change over time. Neuroscience offers many new insights into both the structure and function of the human brain. One of the most well-known models of brain structure,was provided by neuroscientist Paul MacLean, whose ’Triune Brain’ model is based on three dominant structures in the human brain. Those who subscribe to the triune brain model believe that the three major brain structures developed sequentially. First of all, the basal ganglia (found at the center of the human brain) was ‘acquired’, followed by the limbic system (which consists of various component brain structures, such as the amygdala and hippocampus), then the neocortex (which is implicated in conscious thought, language and reasoning).

In an analogous spirit, the learners today must have :

  • the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic though with digital tools and skills. Arithmetic may be advanced  to ComputationalThinking. Reading with comprehension is essential for further mental growth, the absence of which leads to learning poverty. 2: Writing : the 5 paragraph essay…  and other writing skills.
  • supplemented with what are now widely accepted as 21 Century skills ofCollaboration and teamwork, Creativity and imagination, Critical thinking and Problem solving.
  • We may top these with the suggestions of the World Economic Forum’s recommendations : https://www.coorpacademy.com/en/blog/learning-innovation-en/world-economic-forum-the-soft-skills-to-prepare-employees-for-the-future-of-work/

List of tools in the toolkit: 

1: A web browser, an Office suite and a search engine

2: Cyber safety and practice: choosing and managing passwords 

3: A set of trusted information sources. Guidelines for placing trust. 

4: A set of online course platforms: Coursera, edX, Futurelearn, Khan Academy, SWAYAM

5: A range of social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram,  Clubhouse, Pinterest 

7: A website creation or blogging tool: WordPress: curation tools ( padlet) 

8: A variety of productivity tools and Apps, including learning Apps such as Grammarly, Duolingo,iMath

9: Digital tools for making infographics, presentations, videos, animations etc. 

10: A range of communication and collaboration tools: Google meet, Microsoft team

11: Text to Speech, Speech to Text converter and Automatic AI based translator

Of course, in addition to the above, you will need a good connection to the Internet, a smart device with Kindle or an alternate e-book reader. 

The Smartphone will be the ubiquitous learning access device of the future.  There are already millions of apps which enable countless functions and abilities. More AI powered learning Apps will be added every day. 

A personal future readiness plan for School students:  

The toolkit is under development for some time, and it’s first version will be available on Saturday 5th February 2022, which is the auspicious day of Basant Panchami, Saraswati Pooja. Saraswati is considered the goddess of knowledge, art and music. 

In addition to this toolkit for all learners, at any stage, I have also designed a 5 year program delivered through WhatsApp and accessible through a SmartPhone for school goers from class 8. The suggested learning path is the following:

  • Class 8: Learning how to learn. Apply it to achieve mastery learning in all subjects learnt during classes 6,7 and 8. 
  • Class 9: Reading proficiency; Writing Skills; fluency in Mathematics; introduction to AI
  • Class 10: Critical thinking, Computational Thinking, Creativity and developing a Scientific temper 
  • Class 11: AR, VR and related digital skills ; Design Thinking; Conversation Design
  • Class 12: Data Science, Deep Learning, 21st Century Mathematics, Quantum Readiness

To know more, and to  receive the kit when ready, or joining the program for School students please send a WhatsApp message at +919810073724.


About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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