The education system is currently at the mercy of economists and a muti-national profit shareholder driven global society. Their predicted future is for the benefit of a few, enabling the creation of a two tiered society; where individuals are disenfranchised from decision making – from power. Their future is the creation of a new global monarchy and the recreation of surfism through debt and the imposition of a global human disposable resource. This one future has been enabled by technological change, where the initial digital land grab provided opportunity for this few through marketing and exploitation of individuals drive and desire, and the access to creative and virtual credit tools, to plunge society into an ever increasing need for the superficial. These enriched few have had their futures enabled through the control of the press and the deceit of the celebrity. Huxley’s brave new world used Soma as the drug of control, today our Soma is our addiction to celebrity and consumerism. The few will squander any resource to achieve their aim, creating walled havens of peace and tranquillity, plundering the human resource, feasting on their version of Solent Green.
This one future may seem a grim and depressing one, but as increasing global competition for a quality of life increases, there is a real possibility that it could appear before we have educated society to either engage and exploit this, or to challenge and change.
Thus as educators how do we enable two things to happen?
- How do we enable the learner to participate and benefit from this future model; to survive and prosper?
- How do we enable the learner to challenge this future; provide the opportunity for change?
From these questions arises a fundamental issue – what type of person/society are we becoming with the advent of the socio-technological future and how the school environment can adapt to enable all learners to participate. We need to ask who are the learners and educators, how can we enable society to live together, build and contribute to fairness in justice, to find out what we need to know and how to participate and create.
The future person is one moved from an autonomous model to one that is monitored, controlled, marketed; an economic resource. But has the power and access to knowledge and networks to challenge and change. Has the opportunity and skill to assess information and make an informed individual choice of where to engage, to participate and prosper.
Thus the question for our schools is how are they adapting their model of delivery to cope with this new individual?
The current school model provides the opportunity for access to a very limited range of knowledge, an opportunity to test themselves against the barriers to professions put in place by interested parties and an opportunity to fail in a variety of different, creative and de-motivating ways. Yet there is an opinion that the education sector has not undergone change and that a time traveller from the past would recognise the school of today. But education has changed; it has change from the perspective of imposition and control of learning to a comsumeristic leaner empowered choice, driven by techno-enabled opportunities . It is the school where the change has faltered, with a compliance league table driven nature where there is real conflict between survival and every child matters.
So what would a school of our very near future look like? How could it create this new individual?
This school needs to change its fundamental identity, to re-brand, market, upgrade, techo-enable its core. This school would not be recognised as an institution apart from the community (local, national, global), it will be a natural part of everything that the community does. The schools needs a make-over; one driven by the consumer, the client, the individual identity that is now our normalised social self. Parts of it can be re-cycled, dispose of, re-created by new learning generations and new social learning groups. These learning generations are those of a learning network, created by the learners themselves, with the “teacher” becoming another resource for the learner to engage with. All participants become learners, all participants become teachers. The “school” becomes a social network, where its core belief is that we are all learners, that learning continually changes and we learn all our life. The learning is about creating skills, sharing expertise and supporting others, this issue is that the physical boundary of learning does not exist, and that learning is about enabling the individual to survive, engage, support and challenge – to provide the environment for joy, fulfilment, surprise, wonder and perspective around learning.
The learner will not enter or be enrolled, but will as a right be part of that social learning network, the physical opportunities for learning will be provided by a variety of experts in differing locations, where those locations are technologically enabled and environmentally motivation. The learner can choose and change learning mentors, can expect that their learning needs and styles are managed and they have the fullest opportunity to experience a range of opportunities and also to be challenged and stretched continually. The social learning network will have a full set of accessible quantitative and qualitative data, and that this data is used creatively and appropriately by learning experts to ensure that not only every child does matter, but that every learner matters. Learners through the core belief of the social learning network will be expected to collaborate, to ensure that they are technologically literate, that they engage and respect other learners through a learning bill of rights, something that learners will be continually asked to reflect against. Learners will not be classed by age, or limited by age, but will be classed through their choice of learning network and learning path. Learners will be supported by professional learners, whose role is mentor, expert, carer, peer, challenger, friend, family, consultant, creator, collaborator and conduit. The role of the professional learner is to ensure that every learner matters and that no learner leaves the learning community.
The learner (who ever they are) is cared for by the social learning community, neither enters or leaves this community but is engaged throughout their learning life; developing the responsibility to ensure that all other learners have the support, opportunity and right to learn; to ensure that the learner become the new society, that to be called a learner is the ultimate accolade.