Another dot in the blogosphere?

Three thoughts on the future of education

Posted on: October 3, 2015

Tempting to link the future of anything to technological development. That is what most people seem to do because technologies make things faster, better, or are just plain awesome.

Caps-Lock is FULL OF AWESOME!!1! by colinaut, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  colinaut 

Since my passion and work lie where the fields of education and technology overlap, that might also be why I am often asked to offer answers to the question “What is the future of education?”

I do not have a ready or standard answer. But I have distilled some ideas that have withstood scrutiny.

The first is that education and schooling overlap, but they are not the same. For example, schooling is about enculturating the masses while education is about finding the individual.

We need both schooling and education, but I think that we have too much schooling and not enough education. It is just as important to realize that some people use the terms interchangeably. This is why you will get different and confusing answers.

The second thought I have is that it is a mistake to link changes in schooling and education to the pace of technological development. Schooling and education move and respond very slowly to change. Both are very conservative, but schooling more so than education.

The world’s first university might have started in Bologna in 1088. Lectures probably started shortly after and they are still a mainstay in 2015 despite the changes in technology.

My third thought is that we are extremely short-sighted as a species. We want to look forward as far as we can, but we hold ourselves back with our short and selective memories, our biases, our greed, and our fear:

  • We forget that every important technological development had its opponents and failures.
  • Some of us refuse to accept evolution as a fundamental change process because we cannot see beyond a human lifetime.
  • A few of us in control of products like educational media and policies like Internet access would rather maintain the status quo to make money or to feed worry.

So is there a future for education in spite of all these barriers? Of course. Can I tell you what it will look like definitively? Of course I cannot.

What can we do then? Instead of wringing our hands in despair, I say we learn to be now-ists because what we do now shapes the future. If, as William Gibson put it, the future is already here; it is just not evenly distributed, then I say we find ways to spread it around.

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