Everywhere I look at the moment people are predicting a robotic future. Not only will robots be serving our every need at home but they will be taking over all our jobs too. And apparently where this once may have been fantasy it is now more a reality. Just consider the jobs that driverless cars will take: from driving instructors to delivery drivers. Hospitals can run on much reduced staff; don’t bother with self service tills, a robot will do it for you…
Some people have used this to predict all sorts of futures for us from a sort of robotic Armageddon where they take over completely and we are no longer needed, to a sun filled leisure paradise for humans where the robots do all the work and earn all the money to provide each of us with an income and unending leisure time.
I suspect that it will be somewhere between the two. But wherever it is our education seems firmly rooted in the Victorian era. Greater minds than mine have been recognizing this conundrum (see here) but politicians seem hell bent on traditional education and we are still having to justify technology in the classroom. The majority of schools still ban mobile phones rather than embrace their capabilities. Who cares if a child is searching Google for an answer – isn’t that what we all do? Yes, I know they can be used to communicate surreptitiously with their mates – but I’ve intercepted more than a few handwritten notes between classmates in my time and it didn’t cause me to think I should ban pen and paper. The truth is that Adults are scared: technology is an area where the young are the experts and teachers hate to be the ones who aren’t in control of the knowledge process. Except the really great teachers that is – the ones who are prepared to say “I don’t know – let’s find out together”. Those who are prepared to spend a bit of time finding out about the latest apps and technologies and look at ways they could help in the classroom. They may not help but at least they would be aware of them.
So what should our education look like? That obviously involves a lot of discussion amongst stakeholders and those much derided experts , certainly more thought than a single blog! But I would suggest that since robots are going to be part of their future they should certainly be part of their present. And where better to start than with the ultimate educational robot, Roamer – designed specifically, in the words of the great Seymour Papert, “ to help children think” – a skill that will never be not needed.