Disrupting Education?  

One of the key elements of DigiFest that provided my focus for the second day was a comment made during the keynote presentation “Netflix has disrupted broadcasting, Amazon has disrupted retail and Social Media has disrupted news – does education need disrupting?” This statement led me to question does education need disrupting, and who should be doing the disrupting? Are our current learners creating a demand, or is there a sense there will be a change in need for our future learners? Is it ‘demands placed by future careers’, or a more ‘digital driven world’? Lifelong learning is definitely playing a key part in this, enabling us to keep growing and developing our skills as our interests and careers change. Joysy John, director of education for Nesta notes that it is expected that children today will have at least 11 jobs in their lifetime, and will need to develop a resilience to adapt to change, and an ability to maintain an appropriate skillset. So what did DigiFest offer that might help make this achievable? Research conducted by Nesta, the global innovation foundation, suggested the key skills most likely to be in the greatest demand up to 2030 are:  

  • Judgement and Decision making 
  • Fluency of ideas 
  • Active learning 
  • Systems evaluation 
  • Originality 
  • Learning strategies 
  • Deductive reasoning 
  • Complex problem solving 

Are we building these skills into the curriculum and learning outcomes? Are we making students aware that they are developing these skills? Does this change the way we teach and assess? There was a lot of discussion around education 4.0 – the new industrial revolution. Exploring a more flexible, personal learning experience, enabling students to choose their own journey, picking and choosing elements that suited them, potentially over a lifetime. AI and Machine Learning could be important elements in supporting this, by making suggestions of what to study next based on their interests, grades, and goals. The ethical challenge around this technology is always going to be, “just because we can, it does not mean we should!” But as well as asking ourselves, we should be asking our students, keep them involved in the conversation and ask them to help us shape the disruption. Discussions on the day certainly focused on developing moral and ethical decision-making skills in students. DigiFest offered the opportunity to step 10 years in the future, as Natalie 4.0, the student of the future. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to step into this world (you have to queue to see the future these days), but the future they presented was very much a personalised, responsive learning experience, possibly drawing on the disruptive effects we’ve seen from Netflix, Amazon and Social Media. It’s an exciting time to be working in Higher Education, and I embrace the challenge presented of how to create this disruption to education. If we don’t, perhaps an external Amazon/Netflix approach will beat us to it! 

Author: Johanna Westwood