Mark Osborne‘s key note speech at Changing Spaces 2017 on the subject of future focused education provided a range of facts to support the already accepted view that the world is in a rapid state of change and the vast majority of jobs that exist today will be long gone in twenty years.   Ten million truck/taxi/bus drivers will soon be out of work due to the rise of self-driven vehicles.   Many jobs in the construction industry are under threat from the rise of 3D printers capable of building a house with minimal human labour at a cost of only $5000.  Computers, when programmed with the necessary algorithms, can produce written reports as good as those produced by human beings.  Automated medical scans are more successful at picking up disease than human operated ones.  The lifespan of a students’ school education is thirteen years.  The last thirteen years have seen the most dramatic change in any previous thirteen year period in human history.  Who knows what might happen by 2030?


We have heard all of  this this many times of course. Mark’s main point, however, was a move away from cliche:  the human attributes that were deemed important in the past and which traditional forms of education took pains to instill, are no longer valued.  Compliance, diligence and knowledge are qualities better demonstrated by machines than humans.  Mrs Google now has all the knowledge so why do we need Mr University Professor? In order for education to be valid in this brave new world it needs to be innovative.  The traditional education methods and use of space do not allow the interactions that develop the skills needed to be successful in the future. Moving forward we need to focus on creativity, empathy, curiosity and connectivity.   These are attributes which technology cannot (yet) provide.  We need to educate people to complete non-routine, non customized work.  In order to do this we need to create learning spaces which encourage collaboration, inclusion and critical thinking. Teaching must adapt.


I often wonder what a classroom teacher is supposed to do when confronted with this information.  If I do not have the opportunity to work in an innovative learning environment does any of this stuff apply?  Should I quit my job and go and find another school where I can teach in the manner that will bring success to students – or should I remain in my current school with its dinosaur philosophies, single-cell classrooms and end up teaching students in a manner that I know will doom them to failure?

As a cog in the system, what can I do?  I’m just a small piece of a big machine that’s apparently headed for the scrapheap.   I guess I could grind a few gears and make sure that I continue to be an advocate for change, but on it’s own that is not enough.  It certainly wouldn’t be for the students that I teach.  If that were all I could hope for,  there would be little point getting out of bed in the morning.   Fortunately, teaching is a job where I can  make a difference   I may be a small cog in the big national education machine,  but I’m a much bigger cog in the small education machine that runs in my classroom.  By including as much innovation, flexibility and collaboration in my teaching as possible I can have a positive impact on the students in my care. Hopefully I can at least partially prepare them for the changing world that Mark Osborne describes.


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