The Future

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‘The bottom line is that computer technologies are not neutral – they are laden with human, cultural and social values’

‘The digital crowd is likely to play a more influential role in shaping the human values of the future’

(Microsoft, 2008)

The above quotes from a Microsoft report into what technology will look like in 2020 highlight important issues for educators in preparing the children we teach now, for what will be their future. Obviously, no one knows what the future has in store, however, technology already plays a key role in our jobs and in our lives and is developing exponentially in our worlds.

The children we teach will be the digital crowd of the future. Information and opinion is already digitally disseminated and technology increasingly enables this dissemination globally. This highlights the need to teach children critical, digital literacy, whereby they analyse and deconstruct the information they are exposed to (and expose themselves to) with a critical eye, relating it to their own personal, cultural and social values, before deciding upon its value and worthiness.

Science: So What? recently released a list of some of the jobs we may see in the future, the jobs that the children we teach, may hold. It is necessary to consider the skills these jobs may require now, so as to best prepare our children for their future. In thinking of ways to achieve this in school I have come across some interesting ideas to briefly discuss.

Tom Barrett, a teacher and prolific (and very interesting) tweeter/twitterer, recently started the Curriculum Catalyst, a way of crowd sourcing topic theme ideas for use in schools. One theme suggested was ‘The Future’, a brilliant idea that could really work in schools and develop children’s awareness of the future, what it may be like, and how to prepare themselves for it. Also this week, I observed a Year 4 class, preparing to design their own curriculum for the rest of the year, deciding on the key skills they will need for their future careers (although the children hadn’t actually considered the jobs of the future). These 2 ideas are brilliant ways of effectively incorporating thinking about the future into the current day classroom.

On top of this, if technologies are laden with human, cultural and social values, and the digital crowd is likely to influence these values in the future, it is important to consider the values upon which technologies are based. In order to prepare the children who will be shaping the future for the future it would be useful to begin asking questions such as: Why has this technology been developed? Who does it benefit? What impact does it have? Alongside this, consistent work on ethics and positive values in the classroom, will hopefully promote healthy opinions. Although…who am I to say what a healthy opinion is…after all, it is an opinion!

This also makes me think about the digital divide and whether it will increase or decrease in the future; education in the third world and poorer countries; and the differing values of the western world compared to the east and the impact of this on the future of technology and human values.

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