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In Need of Cyber-Education

In Need of Cyber-Education Add Fi to Sci

Before the Industrial Revolution, education was a luxury few could afford. Currently, you can benefit from education free of charge (if you ignore the “stealth” taxation, as there is no free lunch, and neither does free schooling exist either), but its value is much lower if we understand value as the satisfaction derived from the consumption of the product. Human intelligence accommodates the ability for academic exigency, but this does not mean that academic exigency defines intelligence as a whole. Education should be adapted to cope with the changes to come at the grassroots of daily progress.

A fact is that current education on all levels is not fully responding to the demands of 21st century. It is still focusing too much on the left side of the brain which represents the analytical, linear and reasoning “jurisdiction” of our intellect. The right-side brain abilities like intuition, emotion and thinking in images is not well appreciated, but rated on a much lower level which in our new world is significantly underestimated. We have to become more creatively intelligent, develop new skills and bodies of knowledge. All companies are looking for different thinkers and makers. We have to learn how to explore, evolve and exploit our talent which means we have to learn with our heart, think with our hands and use the whole brain for both. 

Charles Darwin attended school in Shrewsbury. Contemplating this experience, he said: “Nothing could have been worse for my mind than this school, where nothing but classical disciplines were taught, except a few scraps of geography and ancient history. School, as a means of education, was for me a blank page”.

Until now, three developments have reshaped the public perception of education: the increasing impact of Science; the galloping growth of industrialization; the development of new theories about the nature of intelligence and how it could be cultivated. For example, industrialization influenced the organizational structure and culture of universities through compliance and standardization. Students are taught about the same subjects and are evaluated according to certain standards. Furthermore, the process consists of distinct sequential stages, each stage having the role of building over the previous one. Crucially, education is preparing students for something to come later. So how to prepare students for a future still unknown? From my point of view, the biggest challenge of the future is to create generations of experts for jobs that do not even exist yet. The challenge is to transform educational systems in line with the transformations produced by digitization regarding the workforce and workplace.

At its roots, the educational system’s goal was to produce factory workers. In 1934, the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget said that “only education is able to save our societies from a possible collapse, be it violent or gradual”. If the current education system remains stuck and does not turn to the future, it itself will represent a catastrophe for humankind.

Since robots are increasingly used in most industries, what should humans prepare to be good at? Of course, everyone will have to have a minimum of digital fluency and literacy. After that, managing people will be far less replaceable than, for example, drawing up architectural plans or searching through legal documents in an attempt to find evidence. These and many others are skills that robots are starting to become very good at, so just getting more education is not enough. We are going to have to focus more and more on human abilities (and affinities). We will need human skills to survive, we need to get a better balance in our brain and focus more on talent. Companies say they want their new employees to be flexible and adapt easily to various situations. Today, more than ever, human communities depend on a diversity of talents, not just a singular conception of human ability.

I strongly believe that a paradigm shift is necessary as the new educational system must target the teacher-student relationship and mutual learning. Change can easily happen if the formal education system incorporates non-formal experiences. We need a new ecosystem of learning where school is a workshop to discover how much fun it is to create new things and improve the environment, a place to exercise and solve problems using data, a blend of creativity, science, technology and entrepreneurship. There should be a lot of freedom, but it should also be structured. Classes where effort and perseverance lead to excellence like dance, music or arts should increase. Monitorization of behaviour and performance through one-on-one evaluation is most important for a personalized learning experience tailored to the needs of each student. Such approaches highlight the importance of individual and collaborative involvement of students in their learning process-objectives, tasks and knowledge within a team, applying self-reflection and peer review, all central to knowledge creation.

Building innovative learning ecosystems is a powerful way to tackle the various increasingly complex problems of building more sustainable societies and economies. The effective integration of digital technology into our educational systems and better and stronger cooperation of all stakeholders is a prerequisite. Collaborative and joint leadership is needed to resonate to the needs of the students and transform the school culture in partnership with communities and local actors. A holistic approach of digital strategies that serve to develop basic skills as a cornerstone for social cohesion will be needed. Some possible ways of balancing digital spaces and ensuring fairer outcomes for all would be to stimulate free digital resources and interoperability of hardware and software. It's not the digital technology that creates social change, but the people. Future investments in technologies must therefore be accompanied with investments in the people and the expansion of their access to lifelong learning opportunities. 

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Ansell, Maddalaine (2016), “Jobs for Life are a Thing of the Past”, The Guardian, May 31.

Ford, Martin (2016), The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment, Oneworld Publications.

Harari, Yuval Noah (2017), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, HarperCollins.

Markoff, John (2012), “Skilled Word, Without the Worker”, The New York Times, 18 August.

McAfee, Andrew (2016), The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, W. W. Norton & Company

Mokyr, Joel; Vickers, Chris; Ziebarth, Nicolas L. (2015), “The History of Technological Anxiety and the Future of Economic Growth: Is this time different?”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 29(3): 31-50.

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