The Future of Learning – Introduction

January 16, 2016 Natasha Gunn

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It’s an exciting time to be a life-long learner. Technology has changed the game forever and it’s hard to imagine where it’s going to take us.

When I started my own schooling in the 80’s we didn’t have computer access, the internet was unimaginable, girls studied Home Economics & Sewing and boys took Woodwork & Metalwork, we passed paper notes in class instead of texting each other and graduating from pencil to pen was something we strived for. Our exposure to the world was limited to what our teachers told us and the textbooks prescribed by the curriculum. Field trips were limited to what we could afford, so typically were kept local.

Twenty years later I’m back in the classroom, this time as a teacher. I encountered an institution struggling to keep up with a radically changing world and students empowered with smartphones and Google. The things I valued in my own schooling, such as correct spelling and a memorized table of elements, meant nothing to this new generation. Wikipedia had become their fountain of knowledge, social media was emerging and the teacher now had to earn respect after losing the assumed elevated status of old.

I observed some colleagues thrive in this environment. They embraced technology, and used it as an instrument for engagement and exploration in the classroom.  They learnt with their students, become agents of change and ambassadors of discovery. They inspired learners and inspired me.

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I also observed colleagues drowning in a sea of change. Whether through fear or ignorance they viewed technology as a distraction rather than an enabler of learning. They feared that technology would diminish the quality of learning and information in our schools. They alienated students by enforcing old ideas and methods in the classroom, stifling creativity and innovation in the process. New learning tools were ignored being perceived as too difficult or of no value. Students outpaced teachers in adopting new technologies, further increase the gap between those who embraced the new world and those who stuck stubbornly in traditional teaching and learning methods.

So where are we now? For the most part the utilisation of technology has been accepted in modern day learning and despite some accessibility barriers still existing, technology is opening up opportunities for millions deprived of education in the past. Information has never been so accessible, the internet can expose a classroom to the other side of the world in moments and soon virtual reality will transport us there too. I believe we are on the cusp of a learning revolution that has only just begun. I have no doubt that learning in the future will look entirely different than it does today.

Join us for this series, where we will explore some of the learning theories, technologies and trends that will radically transform learning in the future.

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