Updated: Jul 25, 2020
JOE RAEDLE / GETTY
It's an extremely busy end of academic year at the moment, which has successfully managed to prevent planned research and writing. However, we do have a post for you this week, and please subscribe for regular updates.
From our department of the possible near future, we bring you Focus 1, a wearable headband that measures students' brainwaves and attention levels then provides feedback to their teacher on a dashboard in real time. Created by a company named Brainco, whose founder worked at the Centre for Brain Science at Harvard University, the device works by measuring brainwave patterns and then assigning a score that is supposed to determine how focused the student is.
This technology has secured about US$20 million in funding so far, suggesting interest in its potential, but there are stumbling blocks. One demonstration of the product has been labelled 'cringeworthy', and other scientists have raised doubts about whether it will actually work. Far more serious questions are emerging about what happens to the massive amounts of data that will be generated, who owns it, and what it will be used for.
Looking at the promotional video, we see a very traditional classroom setup, with tests, workbooks, teacher-focused instructional pedagogy and lots of hand raising. Instead of attempting to address student inattention by creating a more dynamic, collaborative environment with relevant and purposeful learning, technology is provided as the answer.
Is this the way to provide students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need? Apart from the technology, has anything actually changed in that classroom? Is technology enough?
Continuing on from a few recent discussions we've been having recently, this article from the World Economic Forum asks why wealthy tech. executives generally don't allow their children to have access to technology, and if they do only for specific purposes. Do they know something we don't?
Referenced within the article is research indicating the challenges that young people are facing now they are often immersed in technology almost every waking hour, resulting in significantly increased rates of depression and suicide. Also referenced is Bill Gates's assertion that educational technology and personalised learning won't be a 'cure all'.
Gates advocates the use of technology in learning for specific purposes - what we at The Future Learning Project term 'Focused use of technology for learning'. Thoughtless immersion of young brains in screen-based technology is proving problematic, and we observe (and experience) ever-growing challenges with digital distraction in many 121 device schools, along with lower rates of collaborative engagement in learning during technology-focused tasks.
Focused used of technology for learning can be extremely powerful in helping students make progress, but are schools and communities having rigorous discussions about how it's used? We have access to this technology - to what learning purpose? Do we recognise that this is an emerging problem? Can we get ahead of it? If so, how?
The workforce of 2026 concludes our post this week, with the latest 10 year forecast from the US Department of Labour. Briefly, according to the forecast the fastest growing jobs over the next ten years will involve the 'Three Cs': care, computers and clean energy, with the four major themes being:
1. America's ageing population is creating a new labour market, and healthcare is predicted to be the key driver of the US economy.
2. Retail will start to decline, first by not adding any more jobs, and then losing them. Some of these jobs will move into warehouses to process online orders, but not many.
3. Inequality will continue to rise, with a strong correlation to level of education.
4. Automation will not have transformed the economy, yet.
The article concludes with a caution about the Department of Labour's historical predictions, and that technological advances leave a lot of question marks. That said, an ageing population needing people to provide care is a fairly safe bet.
Assuming that the trends identified are likely, what are the implications for learning? Where are the opportunities? What knowledge, skills and attitudes will be needed? Do our schools and teachers have their eyes open? Are they aware of what might be coming?
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