We simply don’t know what the future will hold. Who would have thought 30 years ago, for example, that a large portion of the world’s communication, trade, and source of knowledge would be based on a platform called the internet? The world we live in is dramatically changing and morphing at lightning speed. Only just recently, I read an interesting article that I found on Twitter on artificial intelligence . The ramifications of this one area of technological advancement alone are mind boggling – the implications on future jobs and even upon the fabric of society and humanity itself are far-reaching!
Added to that are complex and difficult issues and problems on a global scale – the current refugee crisis, poverty, sustainability and the global economy are the immediate ones that come to mind.
So how do we as educators equip the upcoming generation? What will be the fundamentals of learning as we move further into this century and into the future?
In my mind, there are three areas to be considered: basic literacy, attitudes and mindsets, and the development of wisdom.
BASIC LITERACY SKILLS:
I recently read a chapter from Tom Bentley’s book Learning Beyond the Classroom: Education for a Changing World (2012). This was a very sobering read as an educator. Failure to master basic skills in reading, writing and maths have been linked (in varying degrees) to unemployment, crime, drug use and even homelessness. Clearly, one of the mandates of educators is to equip their students which a basic battery of skills in the language arts and mathematics; this is undeniably one of the foundations of learning. With skills in these areas, learning in all other content areas (such as history and science) can be accomplished and life-long learning can be perpetuated. I would add that in the contemporary world that we live in, digital literacy is also a fundamental requirement for learning.
ATTITUDES AND MINDSETS:
In order to develop life-long learners, certain mindsets and attitudes need to ungird our students’ make-up. The use of lateral, creative, imaginative, critical and reflective thinking are imperative to address the pertinent personal, local, national and global issues they will be facing. Underpinnings of resilience, self-efficacy, self-direction, flexibility and adaptability will be also essential qualities of contemporary 21st-century learners.
And, of course, the future will also entail students (and educators!) having a growth mindset:
But perhaps the most critical foundation of learning in the future will be wisdom. “Wisdom” is not traditionally an educational term, but maybe it should be put on the curriculum!
The New Oxford American dictionary states that wisdom is “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment”. Wikipedia further elaborates by outlining that wisdom or sapience is the “ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight”.
Wisdom essentially is gained and refined through observation and enacting. As Anthony Douglas Williams has been quoted as saying, “Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living”. Frank Sonnenberg adds to these sage words purporting that, “Lessons in life will be repeated until they are learned”.
To me, wisdom is also knowledge and understanding “with the heart”, incorporating the notions of empathy and compassion.
So what does the future hold? To be honest, I don’t know. I am, however, sure that it will take the ingenuity and collective wisdom of future generations to navigate and embrace it.
And in the wise words of Albert Einstein: