Sunday, September 25, 2011

Education for today and tomorrow

There’s no question that the world is a very different place than it was when public schooling became a common practice in North America. In fact, the rate of change itself has accelerated dramatically during this time frame.

It took us about 3000 years to get from creating our first bits of pottery to starting to record our ideas in writing (with a handful of major advances in between). It has taken us less than 300 years to go from the first steam engine to building space stations on the moon (with far too many world-changing events in the interim to list). It’s estimated that the world (at the time of writing this) produces about 5 exabytes of new information per year1 (An exabyte is a billion gigabytes, in case you missed that particular piece of new information). That’s about 37,000 times the amount of information held in the Library of Congress collection. Ten years ago, who had ever “googled” an ex-boyfriend (or girlfriend). And five years ago, would you have even known what a “wiki” was?

Within the last few generations the time-scale for massive change has become very short compared to the human life span. The world will be a very different place when we die than it was when we were born. Education not only has to keep pace with today, but create structures flexible enough to adapt for an unknown tomorrow.

Changing Economy
The move from the industrial era into a knowledge/concept-based economy has shifted dependence on physical labour into a need for innovation, problem-solving and adaptability. Radically different approaches to work, productivity and prosperity require new approaches to learning, schools and education.

The Rise of Technology
Today’s students are the first generation to grow up with digital technology and this technology has changed the way we view knowledge, access information and relate to our world. Education needs to both capture the incredible possibilities for deep learning opportunities that new technologies can offer and prepare students to cope with the amount and speed of information at their fingertips.

Shifts in Society
Canada’s population has shifted from rural to urban, immigration has increased and we have moved away from interconnectedness with community and extended family into nuclear or single-parent family units. More women are in the workforce, and media, advertising and consumerism have exploded as major societal influences.

Changing World
Before the year 1824, when the first railway engine took to the tracks, no human being (or piece of information) had ever gone faster than the speed to be had on the back of a horse. Compare that with today’s realities for the nearly 6.5 billion people who travel and share information around the world. We have not only become globally connected – on a minute by minute basis – but globally interdependent in solving world issues that threaten our well-being.



  1. the present is long gone and the future has already happened, humans will find ways to evolve and exist in a technological world.. suddenly you can have any information at the tip of your fingers with any portable internet enabled device.. it kinda lets you"forget" about stuff.. i just hope humanity doesnt start relying on technology for information, else then our brains will hold less data!!

  2. When I grow older, everything will be more technology based. Those kids will be lucky if they ever have to memorize a unit circle or anything of the such as calculators will be able to do that for everyone.