The world is changing rapidly; you only have to look back at the last ten to twenty years to see how far we have come. From an age where showing a same-sex kiss on television was shocking to sex scenes and violence of all kinds becoming the norm. We’re more accepting, and we’re certainly more immune to things. Then look at the technology, remember when DVDs were a big deal? HDTV? It wasn’t long before that that the video was new and exciting, now we don’t even use DVDs, CDs, MP3s, and floppy discs. Look at the way we live our lives now too; health has never been so important, people care more and have far more knowledge about their bodies and about their food and where it comes from. We travel more, we move around more, and we settle down later. So, if all of this has happened in the last few decades and the world is now developing increasingly faster, then what is to come for the future generations and how can we help prepare them for the unknown?
Already, artificial intelligence, algorithms, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and biology are shaping the world we live in at a rapid pace. It’s hard to catch up, let alone be one step ahead. But while it’s still essential to teach children what has happened, it is now imperative to show them what is to come. Their future is totally different from our past, but they don’t know that. They can only learn from us and what we tell them and show them. But while we have been taught one way to live and the things that are important in life, what makes a good job and the different ways to make money; in the not too distant future, artificial intelligence and robots could change everything. AI could potentially take all the menial, repetitive jobs off our hands which, while it might be a scary thought, it will mean that that the creative jobs are left to fill and our children need to be able to adapt and to be creative.
According to the analysis of 750 occupations by the McKinsey Global Institute, 51% of job activities are likely to be taken over by automation, and that’s only when looking at the current technology we have or what we can predict. Who knows what else is currently being conjured up in someone’s parent’s garage or some teenager’s bedroom. The jobs that this will happen to are across all industries and skills and wages, so this could lead to mass unemployment, or it could create new opportunities and essentially a shift in how things are done. Think about how the internet got rid of many jobs, but it also created many too.
However, we do still need to prepare our children on how to live in a world with access to an abundance of information, which is tricky as some of us have only known this world for half our lives or less. Two-year-olds today know how to use a phone (honestly so does my dog at this point), four-year-olds know that it’s where you find out what the weather’s going to be like today and where all your photos are – do they even know what a traditional phone was for?
As the children are born with technology around them, teaching them about it isn’t actually all that necessary, but teaching them to create it is. While we need our children to work collaboratively, independently and creatively, we also need to make sure that in their early stages, they don’t have too much screen time. While they need to be familiar with tech and be digitally savvy, too much screen time has shown to impede on children developing the essential human skills they need to function in social and economic work. The Australian Journal of Education has even found that too much use of digital devices is associated with poorer outcomes later on in life.
It isn’t just our job as the older generation (sorry millennials, but that is us now), but of course, school leaders and influencers need to be aware of what is happening in this ever-changing world, they need to be able to keep up with it and try to stay one step ahead of the game. Children need to be taught about entrepreneurialism, coding, and computational thinking. To succeed in their adult lives, they need to be creators and not just consumers. However, there are also skills that we take for granted that are already being lost, and we must make sure to instill them too, like creativity and problem-solving. Kids need innovation but they also need to build up resilience, have empathy, be able to adapt and to be independent. Soft skills are just as critical as cognitive skills, and this needs to be maintained.
If we’re going to change the way we teach, then what needs to come first is the way teachers are trained. Luckily this is already happening, and courses in education are not only being taught online, meaning that they are more accessible for students but they also cover not just how to educate children but educational issues in a wide range of educational settings. For example, the masters in education online from Exeter Online teaches students how to become more effective and innovative educators, which if that’s what we want our future generations to be, then we must lead by example and make sure that their teachers are creative, innovative and adapt well to change.
This issue, just like climate change, is not something we can shy away from. It is happening, and we can’t ignore it. To provide the best life for our children, they need to be well equipped and while we might not know exactly how to equip them, knowing they need to be and knowing we need to prepare them is a start.
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