Educating in the 4th Industrial Revolution

As I was scanning through my Twitter feed this morning an article in Forbes magazine written by Bernard Marr titled, 8 Things Every School Must Do To Prepare For The 4th Industrial Revolution, popped into view. It was an interesting read and raises some important points. Some may be confused by what the “4th Industrial Revolution” actually is and in word … automation. Mr. Marr writes a great description in his article Why Everyone Must Get Ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

According to Marr, the 8 things every school must do is as follows:

  1. Redefine the purpose of education
  2. Improve STEM education
  3. Develop human potential
  4. Adapt to lifelong learning models
  5. Alter educator training
  6. Make schools makerspaces
  7. International mindfulness
  8. Change higher education

As an Educator who has worked in a K-12 environment my entire career and currently teaching at a K-8 school of the arts I can see where the first 7 can be accomplished, while the 8th, Change Higher Education, for obvious reasons is not something that is our direct focus.

There is a big push to redefine the purpose of education, but the redefinition is really hard to do when just about every teacher has the same goal … a test score. Regardless if you teach a tested subject or not, every educator has to somehow make a positive contribution to the school grade, which is generated through test scores. Many schools are caught in the need/requirement to monitor progress of every student, which requires data collection, usually through periodic testing. Just about every teacher I know believes education needs to change, but we always come back to “How can we redefine education while still producing the required data collection activities?”. It is strange how we can allot time for days … even weeks … for data collection (tests) through out the year, but there is not enough time for meaningful collaborative, cross-curricula projects.

There is a shift happening in many schools with the introduction of Maker Spaces and Fabrication Labs, but I question how they are being integrated. These classes run parallel to the school curriculum and the “Maker” mindset does really flow into all the classes on a regular basis nor does it include all of the students. The spaces, when used, are used more of a special event than a meaningful mindset change. These Maker Spaces and Fabrication Labs should be an extension of what is happening in multiple classes rather than just stand alone spaces. Students should have the freedom to use what they are learning in other classes and use the “shop” space to extend or use their learning in a different way.

Too often kids learn some great knowledge, but rarely get a chance to actually use it. Kids learn to add and subtract fractions on a piece of paper, but they never get a chance to use that knowledge in an environment where those numbers are tangible to something real where they can see how their accuracy matters. I have taught thousands of kids over the years and many of them have been have been in chorus or band and I am continuously dumbfounded how they are never allowed to use their knowledge to create. They learn to read music, play music,  and sing beautiful songs, but they are rarely given an assignment where the task is to create something original. We need more opportunities for the kids to create …. freely create.

We need to stop treating STEM and STEAM like they are some stand alone entity because they are an integrated learning experience. The world is cross curricula and we need to make schools cross curricula and that is where the magic of STEM and STEAM can be seen.  I wrote some thoughts about cross-curriculum learning in a post titled Complementary Learning.  Communicating and collaborating with your peers about what is happening in their classes help students understand how all things are interconnected. Understanding how your content overlaps with others also enables you to create meaningful learning experiences for your students without having to do all the work because part of the learning is happening with another teacher.

By integrating curriculum and altering the learning experiences of the students we are able to blow down the walls of the school house and connect the kids with the world. Learning is no longer a content based activity, but rather a connected learning experience where the students use what they have learned in an active sense instead of just proving what they know. Kids love using what they know and it is even better when they are connecting everything they have learned and using it in a meaningful fashion. They are really learning how to learn. When you take the learning out of the silos and mix it with all the other learning kids apply it differently. They see it in use and that makes it matter.

The 4th Industrial Revolution will be embraced by our kids and they will be prepared.


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