As a little detour from my series on The Gatekeepers of Technology, I wanted to talk about some ideas I saw on Twitter just the other day (in fact, I don't really think it is much of a detour as I hope you will see). The original tweet from Dan Davies was a screenshot of a presentation that discussed David Price's Teaching Rules, a synopsis of his ideas from his 2013 book, Open: How We'll Work, Live and Learn in the Future. I retweeted this image and it had a big impact on lots of people. I really think these three ideas are great rules for becoming future-proof in education (if that were ever possible in itself!). I haven't yet read Price's book but I think I will have to if this is anything to go by.
1. A teacher's job is to give students the skills that can't be easily automated
I argued in Part 1 of the Gatekeepers of Technology series that the rationale behind investing in technology was partially (a huge part actually) due to the fact that we must prepare students for jobs that don't yet exist. Indeed, much of that which can be automated is indeed being automated. Automated assembly lines, factory picking roles, and other repetitive tasks are becoming increasingly commonplace; indeed, I visited a large online fashion retailer just last week who showcased their newest machinery which sorted, packed and delivered their goods faster and more effectively than humans ever could.
Britannica tells us, "advantages commonly attributed to automation include higher production rates and increased productivity, more efficient use of materials, better product quality, improved safety, shorter workweeks for labour, and reduced factory lead times." Humans are not needed in many jobs that require repetitive and programmable functions. Therefore, we must prepare out students skills that cannot be easily automated.
However, this shouldn't cause too much alarm for educators who are willing to adapt. "In fact, technological advances haven’t decreased the amount of jobs available—they’ve actually brought about a net increase in jobs. Although certain jobs of the past have gone extinct, there are new opportunities in industries that didn’t exist before. From astronauts to software developers, medical device creators to graphic designers, a wide range of new employment opportunities—and therefore educational pathways—are available to us all." InformED (2017)
The six skills this InformED article suggests that cannot be easily automated are:
5. Physical skills
6. Technological management
Much of these 'human' or 'soft' skills are what we can focus on with students. 'The Humans are Coming' is the mantra of Wakelet too in that they are trying to ensure there is still a human face to the organisation of data in the world. Richard Worzel wrote for TeachMag as far back as 2010,
"Automation, however, is changing standards so quickly that the skills we develop at the beginning of our careers may not be enough to allow us to make a living for more than a few years, and eventually a few months, before they become obsolete. We are being thrown out of work at ever-faster rates, and if we hope to continue to work, we will need to constantly upgrade our abilities."
2. Any teacher that can be replaced by a YouTube video, should be
Although this sounds pretty controversial, and it is, I love it. YouTube is a brilliant resource to learn almost anything you care to learn, from how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew to how to pick a lock as well as everything in between. Often, YouTube is decried in schools for his entertainment elements and it is true that the rabbit-warren time-sapper nature of the platform is something to watch out for (I can't begin to explain where the six hours of watching 'epic fail' videos went on that Saturday in June!). However, the sentiment is absolutely correct. The worth of a teacher is now no longer found in their knowledge alone. What it often takes a teacher an hour to explain, an animation or Harvard professor can do in five minutes.
I like how it is espoused on Flipped Classroom Workshop,
"No matter how brilliant of a lecturer you might be, if you aren’t doing anything more interactive and personalised with your students, then you are not excelling as a teacher. Even the most inspiring, stimulating, thought provoking lecture can be captured on video and played back, and that is a powerful tool in and of itself. But good teaching is so much more than just lecture."
The benefit of a human teacher is generally the emotional and social contact; it is this that is difficult to replace with technology, if we even wanted to for that matter. If a teacher has lost their zeal for learning and their passion for connection with students, then they deserve to be replaced, in my opinion. (N.B. I would much rather train a willing teacher who acknowledges they have lost their mojo than 'get rid' but we are not just talking about someone who is ineffective in a production plant, teachers shape children's lives. If we don't cut the mustard or want to learn, this is simply too important to ignore.)
I think it is also worth stating that this is not just an ethical issue, it is a practical issue. Much of the learning that a person does is not confined to the walls of a classroom any longer. We must harness the power of YouTube rather than avoid it. If that means fewer poor teachers, then I boldly state 'so be it'.
3. Every teacher has to be a futurist
When we determined the name for our podcast and summit, we had been thinking about this idea of futurism for a while. We came up the definition outlined in the graphic below to explain how and why educators must be futurists. We acknowledge that keeping our fingers on the pulse of trends and new technology, as well as government initiatives and educational research, is no mean feat. That said, we must work harder to future proof our schools by becoming increasingly aware of culture and the future. I am seeing so many schools and colleges who lag behind industry in their embrace of technology, as well as different ways of thinking.
Just consider the common educational experience of a typical UK student, including terminal examinations at the end of a period of study, use of pen and paper to complete such exams, strict uniform and behaviour policies, a formalised curriculum with little room for choice and innovation. It does not take very long to realise that there is a huge disconnect between how students are taught and how they will work when they leave schools. Futurists in education, many of whom we get the privilege to interview on the podcast, see things differently; they try to learn from the past and predict the future (which can be almost futile) and then apply these lessons to their current practice. I would love to see more of these folk in the decision-making positions for education across the world.
So...I don't suggest that these are the only rules for teaching but they are a good start. Thoughts anyone?