Dave Coplin discusses the incredible opportunities that lies in front of us when we think about the potential of humans plus machines, Bethany Koby explores 21st century learning and skills, and Miles Metcalfe argues that we must learn to gaze into the future without becoming dazzled by the shiny.
The Future of Education
Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft
Dave Coplin explained that the focus of his role is not technology, but the human beings that use technology. If we understand the future of human beings, we can be more mindful about the technology they are going to need. Technology is supposed to be a force for good in society. This is why Dave signed up for a career in IT. However, when he looks around at how we use technology he sees a prison – that constrains the way we think.
Dave explained that a lot of his job is about the future of work. He sees the role of education is to prepare children for the future in work, so we need to understand how work functions. He stressed that it is our low expectations about what technology can do that currently holds us back, but to change that we need to do change the way we educate to provide students will the skills to realise the potential of technology.
There are some key technologies come at us that will change our relationship with technology. Dave highlighted machine learning, using the example of a recent Microsoft demonstration of realtime language translation via Skype, which will be released in beta later this year. Will we need to teach children foreign languages in a world where a computer can translate for us in realtime?
Dave noted that as we are presented by more and more powerful data interrogation tools that are simpler to use, we need to be able ask the right questions. He argued that when we talk about crucial skills for the 21st century, we need to focus on helping students to develop the skills necessary to make positive, conscious choices about where technology can help us and where it can’t. This is what Dave sees as the core skill. By the time our children grow up, the technology will be different, so we need to focus on enabling human beings to live up to the potential of technology.
Will Technology Save Us?
Bethany Koby, CEO, Technology Will Save Us
Technology Will Save Us focusses on instigating 21st century learning, building on the shoulders of the Maker Movement, Constructivism, and the idea of learning by doing.
In her presentation, Bethany Koby described the set of DIY gadget kits that her company has developed to help people to make, play and code. These kits include an electro dough kit, which to introduces electronics to young children through play dough, and a DIY speaker kit that allows you to create a speaker from anything.
Bethany explained that the company uses user-centred design principles to learn about the needs and interests of children. This process identifies themes that can be developed into a minimal viable kit for testing, then refined into final ‘iconic’ product. The products designed not to just develop a specific skill, but to enable users to explore the process of getting to the skill.
Bethany stressed that creativity and hands on learning is important. A lot of teachers are terrified of teaching technology, but doing workshops using kits means that teachers and students can learn together. The kits can be used across the curriculum, and teachers can be creative about how they integrate the kits into their teaching.
She concluded that when you make something yourself you have a different relationship with it. We don’t currently see this in technology, but these kits could be a way to change that relationship.
Co-Creating the Future
Miles Metcalfe, Independent
Miles Metcalfe began by explaining what he thought was revolutionary about the iPhone was that it was a “people’s computer”. What it had created was the opportunity for people to use technology collaboratively, co-creating what is possible with technology. It was heralded as disruptive.
Miles was disparaging of the over use of the term ‘disruptive technology’, emphasising the reality that monetising eyeballs is very similar to the development of radio and television. Somewhere in Silicon Valley, this disruption is enabling someone is making a profit from your attention.
Should we be worried about this disruptive future? Miles says yes, start worrying.
The tech industry is not trying to get everyone coding for altruistic reasons. It will still need low wage, zero hours code monkeys. Technology can’t automate out the skilled human element of case work (at the moment). The elite still exists, and the balance of power and money that is associated is not going to be magically changed by technology.
He concluded by quoting Abraham Lincoln: The best way to predict your future is to create it. The power to change that future currently sits on our laps. We need to understand that the internet does not make everything different – the world is still messy. We need to be mindful of this and make sure our students are mindful of this to be able to make the most of what technology can offer.
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