Why do children still need to endure the learning process in school when so much in adult life is automated? Maths is handled by calculators and computers; spelling benefits from spell check and predictive text; general knowledge is freely supported by Wikipedia and Google et al. search engines. Is there a need therefore to bother learning anything in school apart from the best facility to play educational games and access the internet.
Is this is the end of the real world as we know it? Is the learning process in schools, designed to provide children with the academic skills needed in adult life, under attack? How can we match the needs of the status quo with the rapid developments in technology, both real and perceived, that could make some of the content of the curriculum outmoded by the time the children finish school?
The future world for children could be completely different from the situation as we know it. Technology is moving at a phenomenal pace. Many of the facilities now taken for granted have only been around for the past five years. And who would have thought a Laptop and PC could start to become displaced by tablet computer or notebook. Recent trading statistics show a substantial decline in laptops purchases in favour of the iPad and notebooks. Google at 10 years old may soon have to defend itself from a superior facility that has not been invented yet but could emerge at extraordinary speed when it does. The application of technology in the next few years could be surreal compared to what we know now. All this has been occurring during the 15 year educational schooling journey of a child.
But could these advances really undermine the content teachers are projecting in the classroom. The maths, science and ICT games used as teaching resources could be outmoded before the children leave school. I recall seeing a BT exhibition around eight years ago that focused on technology on the home and the use of the Internet. BT demonstrated a number of possible innovations but the one that intrigued me was a fridge that scanned the bar code as you move products in and out of the fridge. Coupled with a load cell on which the product was placed in the fridge the computer analysed the consumption rate and remaining weight to predict a reorder point. No need to place an order though, it was done automatically as the fridge was already on line to Tesco! Farfetched – except the iPhone can now scan barcodes and add items to the weekly shopping list. With delivery the next day and payment taken by direct debit who needs to understand the maths or calculate the payment process.
There is a flaw though. Apart from the possibility of being a castaway on Desert Island, or living through a massive power failure, when most technology becomes useless, we need people capable of using their science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM) brains to develop the next generation of technology. We therefore need a highly relevant and dynamic curriculum that reflects the fast pace of change. We need to sustain the classes’ attention and fire their enthusiasm as to what is to come and how they can be part of it. But we also need to prepare children to manage if they “crash landed” on a remote desert island, with no phone or computer where their education has prepared them to analyse, plan and survive.