So it was a real privilege to be able to share some thoughts at TeachMeet Lancashire this week on the topic of 10x Thinking. I have been intrigued by this idea ever since I heard about it in early 2016. This fascination was sparked further by an exceptional presentation by Mark Allen (@edintheclouds) at AppsEvents Summit in London in October 2017, who encouraged us to be cautious of predicting the future but went right ahead and tried to look at 2025 and how things might be different for us and our children in a few years. Google's 10X Project, which the company established in early 2010, is headed by Astro Teller and seeks to identify and implement once-impossible sci-fi fantasies: projects such as the self-driving car or Google Glass. Or an artificial brain, in which a cluster of computers running advanced algorithms learn from the world around them, much like humans do. (In one experiment, it took just three days for a digital colony of 1,000 machines, with a billion connections, to surpass previous benchmarks in identifying photos of faces and cats.)
There are phenomenal changes afoot. From self-driving cars that will lead to our first city of 50,000 inhabitants with no traffic lights, to 90% of the world having smartphones and online cloud storage, to glasses connected to the internet. Yet, in the UK, 98% of schools ban the use of smartphones! Now, I know that there are security and safeguarding concerns with the use of phones in schools but an outright ban? Is this the answer? Surely we should teach young people to be responsible citizens and thus users of their devices? Isn't the school the safest place to teach them the skills and responsibilities? If so, then we may need to employ 10x Thinking to find a solution.
But it's not just smartphones and their use in school which require this new-directional thinking. I proposed that because the changes are inevitable, or as the viral video of the Noughties teaches: Shift Happens, we need to be at least on the curve, if not ahead of it. Below I will suggest how 10x Thinking might be necessary in 5 key areas of the education system: classroom design, homework, assessment, curriculum pathways and student progression. The truth is, this is just scratching the surface. I would love to be able to discuss these further at a later date.
Classroom Design - Will these exist outside of a school building and the 9-3 system? Or if not, will they move away from facing the front to more collaboration-friendly design? Will IWBs and other boards be a thing of the past as we move to 1:1 models? Will teachers even need desks?
Homework - What if we rethought the rationale for giving homework? What if home time was for play and recreation? What if students could learn from home and then consolidate it in school? What if homework was ditched? How could instil a sense of competition and self-ownership?
Assessment - What if there were no terminal written examinations? What if we measured skill sets and self-paced certification? What if this was centred on self-motivated progress? What if our left-brain measures were to be replaced with right-brain creative 'tests'?
Curriculum Pathways - What if we were to go online and have teachers simply as the human element for relationships, could students do exactly what they wanted when they wanted rather than what fits the timetabling model? Will we ever realise that teachers are no longer the most important tool in the classroom?
Student Progression - What if students moved into the next class based on their self-directed progress rather than the date of their birth? What if students really did study for A-Levels in Year 9?
Whatever the future holds, it is clear that it will be exponentially different to the current system. The need to start to ask more 'What if?' questions has never been more pertinent as we transition from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. 10% better is not enough; we need 10x better - heaven knows, our children deserve it.