How Education Can Prepare You for the Future

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Written by Winona Roylance

Presenters: Michael Bodekaer, Founder of Labster
Manu Kapur, Professor of Learning Sciences and Higher Education, ETH Zurich
Carol O’Donnell, Director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center, Smithsonian Institution
Saul Garlick, Founder and CEO, Unleesh
Moderator: Chris Luebkeman, Arup Fellow and Global Director of Arup Foresight

Just as education has been in a constant state of transformation since the dawn of learning, education will continue to transform in the new era of technology. While we don’t know what the future of education will look like in 2050 or how exactly it will change from our current system, we do know that concepts such as creativity, critical thinking, and productive failure need to be taught to student to prepare them for this future of uncertainty. With new and emerging technologies such as virtual simulations and emulations, however, educational institutions are being given opportunities to guide this educational revolution through new methods of teaching and learning. Ultimately, with the help of this technology, educators will be able to teach students the necessary skills needed to tackle a future of uncertainty.

Productive failure is the key to success. By inducing failure in students in controlled safe environments, teachers are able to prepare students for future failures, how to successfully navigate past them, and ultimately avoid them altogether when it matters most.

Productive failure induces deep learning. Studies show that after a student has failed at a particular task, skills such as creative problem solving and conceptual learning kick in that increases understanding of the overall task as well as enhances the student’s critical thinking skills.

Productive failure is not a new teaching method – it is a culture. Rather than directly teaching students how to fail, productive failure focuses on creating a safe environment where students can understand failure initially in order to reduce the chance of failure in the real world later.

Virtual simulations are being developed to teach productive failure. Unlike the perils of real world failure, virtual simulations create an environment that is both safe and induces fast failure for faster learning.

 “You learn by failing forward.” – Saul Garlick

Education faces several challenges moving forward. With the advent of technology and new theories of learning, it is becoming increasingly apparent that current modes of education are in dire need of change.

Education needs to prepare students for an uncertain future. Despite the fact that 30 years ago it was easier to pick a career from a few set paths, the students of today’s world are now subject to a job landscape that changes almost daily. Therefore, it is crucial that students be taught skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication and collaboration in order to prepare them for the unknown future.

Education needs to be switched from application mode to design mode. In today’s education system, students are taught to apply their knowledge immediately to classroom problems as soon as they have a grasp of the material. However, education needs to focus more on a design mode where students are constantly engaged in what they are learning.

Schools need to teach skills, not content. With technologies such as the Internet, students now have more access to information than ever before. Therefore, it is crucial for teaching methods to switch from teaching students what to learn and instead teach them how to learn and think.

Teachers need to facilitate, not just educate. Escuela Nueva, a foundation in Colombia, focuses on personalized and collaborative learning by placing students in a Montessori-style setting and allowing them to learn from each other through learning guides with real life example problems and potential solutions.

Technology will lead to more personalized forms learning.

The biggest opportunity technology will afford humans is capturing human experiences. While skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving are inherently human, education systems seem to continuously fail at teaching these skills. With emerging technologies, however, machines will be able to observe data sets from both the general population as well as individuals, thereby creating a personalized learning experience.

Emerging technology will be able to learn how you learn. With machines becoming increasingly closer to understanding human patterns to learning, there will soon be technology that can monitor and explain individual learning methods and thereby know how to induce moments of insight with more frequency.

Technology will not overtake education, but simply augment it. While technology will undoubtedly revolutionize education, learning will most likely remain hands-on and human-centered with technology being used as an augmentation device instead a replacement for education as so many fear.

Machine learning and big data will allow us to create theories of the particular. With current models of psychology defining learning and cognition in terms of averages – the average individual, average population, etc. – machine learning will become so personalized that learning and cognition will become a theory of the particular.

“What machine learning and big data will allow us to do is to create theories of the particular.” – Manu Kapur

You can prepare for the future starting today. While the future is uncertain, you can start preparing for it by following these simple tasks:

Gain a learner mindset. Make sure to focus on what you’re interested in and allocate time for constant learning.

Question belief systems. As high school students enter college, they begin to solidify their beliefs in ideals and how the world works However, these ideals are culturally-bound and are constraints on potential opportunities, so make sure to constantly challenge your own belief systems.

Pay attention to soft skills. While hard skills may land you a job, if you don’t have the right soft skills – collaboration, communication, accepting failure, and not being afraid to question things – you won’t last long in the world of work.

Travel widely and live around the world. Nothing gives you an education like travelling the world, and the world needs you just as much as you need it.

Never lose your inner child. Qualities such as inventiveness, creativity, play, and learning new things are all things we have naturally as children. Interestingly, these are the same skills that you will need as an adult to be successful.

To read or download the rest of the essays from this special report on the Future of Work and Education, download our free app on your favorite device (iStoreGoogle Play, and Amazon Kindle) or click to view the Digital Edition.