Constructing Education for the Future

I've been invited by Bernie Mitchell to take part in a panel discussion at one of the #140 Conference Meetups. The topic to get us started is:

Constructing Education - Do we have a real time responsibility to future generations - NOW? (And what does that look like?)

Here are my initial thoughts.

There is a temptation to say, like Sir Boyle Roche,

What has posterity ever done for us?

I believe that would be both shortsighted and wrong, for the following reasons:

  • The future is closer than we think. The pace of change, as measured by, say, adoption rates, is so fast these days that anything we do now, or fail to do, is likely to have repercussions in our own lifetime. So from a self-interest point of view if nothing else, we'd be pretty stupid not to exercise responsibility towards future generations.
  • On moral or ethical grounds (I'm never quite sure of the difference), why would anyone go into teaching if they were not committed to the welfare of future generations? I like to think that not everyone goes into teaching as an interim measure between more lucrative forms of employment.
  • The term 'real time' is quite interesting. It suggests the idea of changing education according to needs much more quickly than is usually true. It ties in with an idea I've had for some time, which is that if you want schools to succeed you have to give them more freedom rather than less. Micromanagement stifles creativity in commercial life; surely the same is true in education?
  • That being the case, if I am right then what we need to do is construct an education system which is minimalist, rather than detailed.
  • We also need to somehow remove the risk of failure from the educational process. Many teachers/schools are so concerned about league tables that they dare not risk trying out new approaches, such us using Web 2.0 applications in the classroom. I wonder if there is a way of allowing innovation -- especially using educational technology -- without risking students' life chances or Headteachers' careers? The fact is, not innovating and not using technology are just as risky as taking risks!
  • That's because the world is changing. The world is becoming a Web 2.0 world. I may have a chance to say more about this tomorrow, but basically the point is this, and it has been made many times by many people: there is little point in educating future generations for life and work in a world that is gradually disappearing.

If you can make it to Holborn Piccadilly in London tomorrow evening, I hope you will be able to join me and a brilliant line up of other panelists and a great bunch of participants to discuss such matters. What are your  thoughts?

STOP PRESS! The venue has changed: it is now at the Grace Bar, 42-44 Great Windmill Street, London W1D 7NB.