In March of 2011, my family and I were blessed with the birth of my niece. When I took the trip to New Jersey to meet her for the very first time at two weeks old, I could not help but think about how the world will be different from the one my sister and I grew up in. Thinking about her education and what tools would be available to her I could not help but imagine how integrated technology would be in her life. This begged the question, “how would technology redefine the context of education for her?”
Children born today will grow up with very little experience using textbooks, as I knew them in school. They will not miss the feel of a book or the smell of the pages as many people do today when they are faced with e-books. Children born today will appreciate the multi-dimensionality of the next generation of e-books. Simply look at what companies like Inkling and Apple (iBooks2) are doing with e-books. My niece will look at my old books and wonder how I learned with such primitive technology (Oh boy, she’s going to make me feel old!). For her, paperback books will lack in the features she considers standard.
Children born today learn programming as a basic skill for survival, much like 20 and 30 year olds, today, grew up learning to use a computer. My niece will solve problems she encounters in school and life by simply writing an app for that. And her primary goal will not be to market the app and sell it, but rather to make her life easier. Should it be popular too, then great, but that will simply be icing on the cake. Now this doesn’t mean she will be a professional programmer and pursue that for a living; what it means is that the skill will be common and used in the normal course of academic, professional, and personal life. Some will pursue programming further and make more complicated applications but most will know enough to simply solve their own problems.
Children born today will use technology to communicate with people all over the world just as easily as I communicated with people in my neighborhoods, schools, and companies. My niece’s friends will be global and they will define a new type of relationship. Just like we classify people we know as friends or acquaintances and then separate them by where we met them (i.e. networks), she will have yet another classification for her global pals based on the nature of how they met and how they interact. My niece will also not see differences the way we do today. She won’t be so split with people on issues like politics, race, sexuality, etc. Her and her friends will connect based on shared interests as a primary bond. The nature of her relationships will not be based on neighborhoods, schools, and companies. Today, the people we have relationships can be largely classified by where we met them (i.e. Facebook networks). Tomorrow my niece’s networks will be based on interests and relationships based on the physical/geographical dimension will be secondary.
The implications of these major shifts in context will have major implications for how education operates and gets delivered in order to meet the learning demands of the future. The educational system will be forced to operate within these new contexts and if the system does not adapt quickly enough, then it will be replaced by a new solution. Consider the pressure these contextual shifts will put on the system. It’s time to think about how we develop a solution that will thrive in the context of the future.