The first step in developing an effective program of education is to assess the needs of the learners. In this regard, the world of education is changing as much as the world of technology. As the growth of technology increases, education will also increasingly be in demand, if only to keep up with the technology.
Technology is not the only major social shift, the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and “smaller”. With this globalization, people are more mobile, new economies emerge, power bases shift and demand for resources increase (World Economic Forum, 2018). While some may argue that civilization is always changing, much as the climate is, it is the pace of change we see today which is unique, just as it is the pace of climate change which is worrying.
Even as a species we are probably still evolving. People are certainly living longer when there is access to modern healthcare (Wallace, 2017), whereas cultural values, beliefs and behaviors are also changing; people are living differently than they once were. However, beyond this, studies indicate that the human brain is also still evolving (Balter, 2005). Increased media consumption and digital lifestyles reduce the ability for consumers to focus for extended periods of time. Tech savvy consumers are actually getting better at processing information and encoding that information to memory (Microsoft Canada, 2015), while some worry that attention spans are decreasing. In other words, people think differently today than the used to.
With respect to education, these trends are resulting in a need for ubiquitous access to knowledge and the opportunity for near constant learning. Moreover, this learning will become increasingly personalized with classrooms being “flipped”; the emphasis being more on learning and less about teaching. Rigid ideas of “degree programs” and classrooms with desks neatly in rows are giving way to “micro-credentialing” and the understanding that learning is a process which should not be limited to a specific place and time (Swearer, 2016).
In addition, the social perspective about education is also changing. The new economy requires task-specific skills, as well as a focus on developing decision making and problem-solving skills (The World Bank, 2001). This will require learners to think differently about their education and for colleges to think differently about their degree offerings. As a result, there will be a shift towards more relevant competency-based programs and aggressive competition for students. (Cole, 2015).
As the needs of learners change, the role of the teacher changes. Rather than a teacher being the “sage on the stage”, students will go to class for individual mentoring and teachers will become more like coaches and facilitators, helping the learner to synthesize information (Swearer, 2016). Chalk boards and books will be set aside for tools such as the Smart Board and internet connected computers. New media means developing new content, such as videos, mobile apps and games.
In short, teachers will teach differently with different tools to students with unique needs looking to adapt to a rapidly changing world. The author and futurist, Arthur C. Clarke said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. While it might not look like magic, the education of the future is likely to look very different.
World Economic Forum (2016, February 9th). The fourth industrial revolution. [video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwBSWOqaM40
Wallace, A. (2017, June 29). CDC: Americans living longer, fewer dying from major diseases. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.upi.com/CDC-Americans-living-longer-fewer-dying-from-major-diseases/1031498747725/
Balter, M. (2005, September). Are human brains still evolving? Brain Genes Show Signs of Selection. [web log comment]. Retrieved from:
Microsoft Canada (2015). Attention span report. Retrieved from:
Swearer, R. (2016, May 2). 4 ways the future of learning is changing. [web log comment] Retrieved from: https://www.autodesk.com/redshift/future-of-learning/
The World Bank. (2001). The Knowledge Economy and the Changing Needs of the Labor
Market. Retrieved from: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTLL/Resources/Lifelong-Learning-in-the-Global-Knowledge-Economy/chapter1.pdf
Cole, S (2015, March 5). 5 big ways education will change by 2020. [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.fastcompany.com/3043387/5-big-ways-education-will-change-by-2020