I am a long-time Futurist, and technologist. In my career, I have spanned the birth of personal computers, to the rise of Cloud Computing.
We really need to focus time and effort on helping education get to where we want it to be.
In terms of credentials, I do understand credentials are important. Sometimes, I used to be a schoolteacher. My training as a professional was as an elementary education specialist. I grew up in the household of a college professor. Both my parents believed in and supported education to improve oneself. Finally, my last credentialing in this future of education post is that I am a parent. My thesis is very simple for this feature, simply that we need to change education not just in the United States but throughout the world.
Education has many definitions, and each of those definitions has legal and societal support. The reality, however, is that education has one purpose. To teach young humans how to think. As a former teacher, I can tell you that I was often frustrated by the lack of technology that I had my hands on to teach students. I brought my computer into the school many times. To teach students the joys and wonder of creation using digital systems. In one of my summer school classes, the students and I created a "Dinosaur" HyperCard stack. HyperCard was a product made by an Apple computer that was a precursor to what we now call the Internet. It was, for all intents and purposes, a hypertext markup language. That presented a visual and audible view on the computer screen. The students and I spent many weeks that summer scanning images of dinosaurs into the computer. By the way, scanning was not simple and easy back in the day. The kids had to understand how to operate the printer-based scanning system, how to troubleshoot issues, and ultimately how to crop and clean up the images they created. I then had them research the biomes of each of the dinosaurs we would present. As we were coming into the last two weeks of that summer school computer class, one of the younger students asked what noise dinosaurs make. We spent the last two weeks learning how to record sound and embed that sound in the HyperCard stack. They were some of the most creative sounds I have ever heard!
There are three things to unpack in this particular activity we did. The first is that there were many situations where we were doing things I didn't know how to do. So I was learning right along with the kids. I often had to say I don't know; let's find out. Let's experiment, let's play, let's see what's possible. That was the first lesson that I learned from this activity. The second lesson was when we were ready to start building the HyperCard stack; it had become a passion project for everybody in the class. Passion projects drive commitment from students. The last thing I learned was that if we had better equipment and better support, what we built would've been significantly better. I'm proud of what we built, but I also knew it could've been better. Still, it was an interesting passion project for the students.
I didn't mention that my computer glass, was kids from Kindergarten to sixth grade. They were all engaged!
One of the things that I advocate for is passion projects—starting in the 9th grade and through high school. Students would be allowed to do passion projects. You learn a lot in a passion project because you're excited to be involved. I think that is something we need in global education. But the other thing I think we need is the ability to support better the education system we have today with the technology that is available for people to use. I believe in the future, we need to provide schools with better technological systems. One of the things, of course, that will require greater security. Many schools and hospitals have suffered ransomware attacks because it is hard to prevent ransomware in schools or hospitals. In fairness, this is because security professionals are expensive. Schools don't have the budget for non-educational support staff at the same level as a business or government agency.
The other step that would benefit education greatly is simply starting the school day later. Study after study show that students don't get enough sleep today. Sleep deprivation has a huge impact on the growing young mind. We need to do a better job of making sure kids get enough sleep. Part of that would be shifting the school day an hour later. When my kids were seven and eight years old, putting them in bed by 8 p.m. meant that they were asleep by 805. They wanted to go to bed later as they got older. But the school never changed. The school still expected them there at 730 in the morning. I would push that all schools worldwide start at 8 o'clock or 8:30 or even 9 a.m. This extension of the school day to an hour later would greatly benefit most students.
My three pushes to improve education:
- We need to Fund education with greater availability of computers and other technological hardware, including lab equipment and other components; this will support advanced passion projects and allow students to engage with teachers at a new level.
- Somehow we must figure out a way to cure the digital divide. Maybe sure that every student has access to the Internet and the capability of interacting online.
- We also need to figure out ways to protect students better when online and in school from people who have ill intentions.
For many years I built model rockets with second-grade students. One of the things I did every year in the spring was launched the rocket that the students helped build. We cordoned off a safe area so everybody knew where they could stand so that there would be no risk of the rocket exploding and hurting anyone. Then when we launched the rocket, we put a 300-foot rope circle at the other end of the field. The student's job was to figure out using pretty complex math where that rocket would land. The deal was if they were right and they predicted correctly where the rocket would land inside of the rope circle I put on the field, I would buy the class pizza. The first two years we did that, I did not provide pizza. We have had to buy pizza each year for the last three years. When kids are excited about learning, the complexity of the topic doesn't matter. What matters is the passion of the student. So how do we improve education globally? It is time to use technology to its maximum impact in schools. From translation, devices to help students move to a location where the teacher speaks a different language. Bring experts to the classroom by leveraging the ever-expanding expert networks such as Ted Talks and others. As a former teacher, technologist and parent, I have seen the good, the great, and the hard to take of education. Making education better all around the world is my passion project!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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