The future of schooling is hotly debated. Inspired by great thinking at organizations such as Knowledge Works and reports such as this one from the World Economic Forum, with a dose of my own experience and intuition thrown in, I offer this vision for education (my own 1.0 version).
The world of work is dynamic, where machines have automated many tasks, and made countless jobs redundant. But perhaps surprisingly, this has not facilitated widespread unemployment. The type of job (i.e. what humans are now doing) has changed in many fields. Machines do what machines do best, and humans are doing what humans do best. This graphic offers a good overview of this dynamic interplay.
Artificial intelligence (AI), still not regulated, is a key wildcard in the system. And it offers opportunity for the the profession of education, even if the realization of this potential is years away.
Schools have an Achilles Heel: barriers or shortcomings that have proven difficult to overcome for decades.
- It has been difficult to provide personalized or individual attention, and differentiated instruction, with class sizes what they are.
- Distractions can interfere when a student requires sustained focus for a task.
- We are still learning how to best support atypical learning profiles.
- Overly rigid structures sometime prioritize order over learning.
- Teachers are being asked to teach in ways different than when they were educated or trained to teach.
- Leadership has been inconsistent.
- The cost of schooling continues to increase, making a high-quality education unattainable for many.
However, schools are uniquely positioned to do many things particularly well.
- It can promote the socialization of learning, identified as key in the learning process over a century ago by John Dewey and others.
- Schools are communities, and healthy communities build healthy societies and active citizens.
- Extra- and co-curricular activities develop skills and healthy habits that can’t be taught in a classroom or in isolation.
- Feedback, a teacher’s greatest gift, can be timed and tailored to the individual.
- Counseling and advisories can promote the vitally important mental health.
The new school model doubles-down on what a brick-and-mortar school is good at, and at the same time, moves away from its shortcomings through new technology, systems and structures. It is a hybrid model. This new school personalizes learning, matches feedback to the individual, and limits distractions. Atypical students can access the education they deserve. Structures are flexible. Teachers work toward their strengths. Leadership becomes a manageable endeavor. The model is markedly less expensive, and more sustainable. It results in a personalized and relevant education for all.
But this school model requires innovation, breakthroughs like an AI-driven handheld personal assistant (that knows what a particular student needs at any given time, whether in executive functioning tasks, or access to knowledge, simulations, or feedback; one that can track progress, and also promote connection. The new model requires leaders to be courageous but also show urgency (to reverse the tide toward irrelevancy). It requires society to value teachers the same way it values doctors, lawyers, and businesspeople.