New Thinking means a New Question!

‘Google Uncle’, as I like to refer to the most popular search engine, has all the answers. Any question posed to him and he instantly churns out innumerable answers. Search engines work on the logic that the answers are all there, the information is all there, what is required is asking the right questions! I have noticed several times that many of my colleagues fail to find the relevant or desired information while at work. This can be frustrating, especially when research is an integral part of the work we do at LXL Ideas. Over the years, I have realised that not everyone knows ‘how’ to ask the ‘right’ questions to Google!

If we dig a little deeper, we realise that this has to do with the way we were brought up and the manner in which our schools educated us. A normal upbringing for most of us at home has primarily focused on instructions and questions have been rarely encouraged. In school too, our ability to question is questioned. The focus of our educational system has always been and continues to be ‘answers’. We are supposed to learn the answers and the more we can answer, the better grades we get. Schooling teaches us to search for the right answers, give the right answers and derive the right solutions. Eventually, it all boils down to being about the answers. Our educational system has diminished our ability to ask questions in a very conscious and systematic manner!

It is already apparent in our world today that all the information is out there and learning information is definitely not the key to a good life in future. Seeking the right information from the abundance of information out there is a necessary skill. This simply means that we need to teach our children to ‘ask questions’ and this for me seems so contrary to what we are doing in schools today. We have no choice but to gear our pedagogical processes and ourselves to focus more on the child’s ability to raise questions. This is easier said than done. Our entire pedagogy, teaching style, curriculum, examination and grading system needs a relook. While we are all aware that this will take time. In the meantime, what must be done to teach the skill of questioning, critical thinking and problem solving to our children?

Another pressing reason why we should be teaching this skill to our children is to solve the new problems we are facing as a planet and the undiscovered problems we will face in future. The world will throw up to our children, very intriguing and unexpected social, economical, political, environmental, religious and spiritual challenges that need to be addressed. Past knowledge, problem solving skills and information will be of little help in solving the future problems. New thinking and innovation will be key and the basic founding block of any new thinking is a new question!


Will creators of content consume content?

Traditional education through the years has had one meaning- passing on knowledge. While there were people with knowledge and experiences on one hand, there were people, invariably children who were keen to learn. A very simplistic modern explanation to education would be that there is content and there are consumers of content. This format of education has always existed and has consistently evolved over time. Before languages were developed man used sign language and sounds to communicate and teach. However, when languages got developed learning was passed on through stories, incidents and epics. Traditionally, learning was passed on through generations with day to day activities and unorganized skill learning processes. As societies evolved there were organised learning spaces like the gurukuls and the madrasas with organised learning processes, organised curriculum and specialist teachers who taught children. As time progressed, we moved from basic to secondary and then to university education. With the recent advent of technology there has been a lot of innovation that has come into classrooms from films to digital content to games to robotics and so on… Sending children to school is a basic human right and is one of our societies biggest concerns. Getting educated means that our children need to learn what we are teaching them. In fact, our benchmark for good quality education has always been measured with the child’s ability to reproduce the content that is being taught. I have been living with a very interesting thought, through the last few months – we live in an era where almost everyone creates content. Every message we type, every photo we take, every video we shoot, every comment we make and every presentation we create is content creation. What is even more interesting is the fact that children love to create content since they are not happy to simply consume content. This reality around us is asking a very pertinent question to our education system – How will creators of content consume content? This has never been asked before. Our processes, our focus and our planning has always revolved around ensuring how children learn what we believe they should learn. The new generation of content creators are not going to sit back and learn no matter how engaging we make our classes or curriculum, they want to participate in creating content. I am very excited about what this question will lead to.  Finding an answer to this question will lead us to a completely different era of education where the focus will not remain on teaching and learning, it will evolve into Creating and Consuming Content.

Nurturing Global and Digital Citizenships

In the month of July, I was in Boston to attend the Future of Learning 2016 held as part of Project Zero organised by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Over the years I have attended and spoken at innumerable conferences and summits, but this one stood because of the quality of researched topics that were deliberated. The conference design did not look at solutions to the future of education instead it focused on understanding the dynamics of the future that will in turn impact the process of learning. The theme of the conference revolved around nurturing global and digital citizenships. The topic seems urgent against the backdrop of rapid spread of digital technologies, growing calls for sustainable development as well as a rising xenophobia and a most troubling refugee crisis.  The questions that guided the discussions at the conference were:

  1. Purpose of Learning? What are the reasons that guide our educational efforts; how are they being articulated by others and in my own work?
  2. How might we rethink learning? How do we need to rethink the what, who, and how of learning in our dynamic global and digital times?
  3. What should we do differently? What should I, and others, do differently in our teaching, learning and leadership to meet the new digital and global demands in practice?
  4. How might we prepare ourselves? What is our role as responsible professionals in Education in an increasingly digital and globally interdependent world?

Some of the interesting topics that were deliberated include:

  • Millennials do not want to absorb content, they want to produce and participate in creation of content. This is the reality of our times, everyone has the ability to and feel the need to create content. Our social media activity, fascination for taking photos and videos, eagerness to reply and respond to messages and posts is all proof that we love to create content. Education originally was designed in a manner where students had to absorb content already created. How will we engage a generation which wants to create content not absorb content?
  • Children need to learn to be curators of information and to remove the noise. There is so much content available that knowing or remembering content will not be necessary. The new skill required would be to analyze and sort relevant information from the abundance of information available.
  • What will happen to truth in the era of Digital Truth? Everyone has an opinion and everyone is creating content. In this era of content and abundance of content what happens to the truth?
  • We have to live with diversity. The pace at which migration is happening around the world has never been witnessed. In this fast changing demographics how do we teach boundaries, cultures and traditions to our children?
  • Education should not be for something it should be a wonderful experience by itself. If we fail to create good experiences for children we will fail to engage them in the process of learning.

The future of learning is going to be very exciting yet very different from what it is today. Finding answers to these questions and many more that will come up over the years will take us on a journey of exploration that will lead us to how learning will happen in future!