Imagine your child is an adult living in the year 2040—what do you see?
I’ve asked myself the same question, and I have to admit that it was very difficult to picture what my son’s life will look like in the year 2040. I’ve asked him to help me out with this imagination exercise, and here is what we’ve got on our vision board. In 2040, my son, Vlad, is thirty-seven and the father of a seven- year-old. He is connected 24/7 to vast worldwide resources through tiny devices, like his watch and glasses, or through body implants. There is no longer any need for him to carry around a heavy smartphone.
It is a normal day of the week.
His day starts with a made-to-order breakfast, compliments of their fancy and intelligent personal kitchen robot. His family’s virtual assistant briefs them about their schedule as they eat. With a quick voice command, Vlad summons a driverless car to take them all to the community where his child is learning. On the road, he has the time to explain to his son or daughter what TV channels were when he was a child. They laugh because it is very difficult for his son/daughter to understand how their father could live without being able to watch what he wanted, when he wanted, because he had to follow the TV channel’s scheduled programmes.
On the drive, they also pass by teams of agile robots maintaining their neighbourhood, collecting trash, repairing buildings, tidying yards and policing for safety. A swarm of drones pass overhead to address an emergency. Their neighbours have beautiful homes manufactured by 3D printers. At the learning community, the first meeting includes a few children and parents, most of whom attend via their lifelike holographic replicas because they are working on their parts of the project from home. In this world of 2040, robots perform their errands. Their purchases are delivered in minutes by drones. The boundary between real and virtual life has blurred in ways that are uplifting for my son and disturbing for me.
Fortunately, as Vlad would say, this is not science-fiction. These advances are already well underway. And if you follow the research magazines online, you probably know that he is right. We’re heading into a world where machine intelligence excels in manual and cognitive tasks. This is happening faster than we think, as automated solutions are already working all around us.
Today, in the year 2020, my son is twelve years old, and he is going to a public school where children are memorising endless definitions, formulas and low-level procedures. They’re becoming proficient at low-level tasks that are handled flawlessly by even a basic smartphone today. Instead of learning to work in teams, communicate with peers, negotiate, or care for one another’s emotions, safety and security, they’re being trained to follow
Today, my son is dreaming of a learning community where children love what they’re doing so much that they don’t want to be anywhere else. A space where children own their learning. Where they set goals, manage progress, and lead the discussions about how they’re doing. He dreams of a place where it is ok to make mistakes and to explore. A place where there is a buzz in the room, but where discipline issues disappear, and an environment where real learning happens because children care about each other and the challenges at hand. These children, those in my son’s 2040, do not know expressions like: “I’m doing this worksheet because the teacher says I need to.”
I have a similar dream for my son for now, but it’s not for 2025 or 2030 or 2040. From observing great classrooms and schools around the world, I know that change is possible. All we have to do is make sure learning environments include the key elements that help children thrive:
Learning is based on relationships, and the interactions between teachers, families and children should be joyful, compassionate and authentic. Learning communities can be a place of wonder, joy, intellectual risk-taking and well-rounded fun. I am not suggesting activities without structure or planning. Instead, I believe the learning environment should be joyful and fun because those are the conditions that encourage academic risk-taking, vibrant interactions with others, and higher levels of engagement. True learning and deep understanding are often the byproducts of a joyful learning environment.
Example: For learning tools that stimulate meaningful conversations, curiosity, self-worth, self-awareness, learning and teamwork all the same time, check out the How People Learn game here.
Children and adults work on problems that are important to them and their community. They complete projects with real-world impact that can be displayed publicly through storytelling. Over time, children gain confidence that they can make a difference in their world. Purposeful work builds purposeful learners.
Example: We, at #HPLbook Project, say #ImpactBeyondTheClassroom in every article or social media post.
This is not because it is trendy, but because we believe children can have an impact beyond the classroom from early in their lives while also building important competencies in the long term. Lia is a twelve-year-old graphical artist from Canada working on our team as an illustrator. Check out her Valentine’s Day Card here. Vlad, my son, is twelve years old. He is a product designer on our team and oversees the product’s development, usability, look and feel. Ilinca is ten years old. She loves writing stories. One of them will be published very soon and will be available to buy in our shop.
There are essential competencies and dispositions that are needed in the twenty-first century, especially if we want our children to be thriving by the year 2040. These are self-awareness in regards to their mental and physical health, as well as safety and security, creative problem solving, communication, collaboration, critical analysis, citizenship and sustainability and aspects of character.
Example: When we ask parents about learning, many think about academic results. But there is more to be aware of and develop if we want our children to truly thrive. Check out our free infographics here on learning and development from birth to the age of twelve.
We, the adults of today, have to prepare our children for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, and to solve problems that have not yet been anticipated. It will be a shared responsibility to seize opportunities and find solutions. To navigate through such uncertainty, our children will need to develop curiosity, imagination, resilience and self- regulation. They will need to respect and appreciate the ideas, perspectives and values of others. They will need to cope with failure and rejection and have the strength to move forward in the face of adversity. Their motivation will need to be more than getting a good job and a high income. Instead, they will need to care about the wellbeing of their friends and families, their communities and the planet. As parents, we can equip them with a sense of agency and the other competencies they need to shape their own lives and contribute to the lives of others.
Example: To make sure we encourage the development of agency, we need to make sure that children have a voice in their work. Starting at a young age, children learn to set their own goals, manage their efforts, assess their progress, and persevere to completion. As they learn how to learn, they free themselves of the need for formal instruction. Personal agency can mean working at their own pace on a laptop, but it extends to their community as they teach, inspire, motivate, and learn from each other.
Children develop mastery if they master deep knowledge. They teach others. Their knowledge is reflected in the quality of what they create, build, make and design. Guided by adults or older children, they acquire expertise on adjacent topics. While their growing body of knowledge is organic and unpredictable, their understanding is deep, retained, and held to a high standard.
Example: If you are a parent or a teacher, do not try to outdo the Internet in terms of delivering content. Instead, empower your children to find, critique and leverage all available resources. Do not lecture. Instead, you should advise, mentor and coach. Care. Invite them to change minds, lives and environments. Education should prepare our children for the reality of life and for that 2040 that will eventually come, but we currently have it backwards. We prepare our children for when their school years begin, for when school hours start, and for when school tests are
placed before them.
TWO QUESTIONS the #HPLbook project will try to answer and create tools for in order to help every parent with the same principles are:
What values, knowledge and skills will today’s children need to thrive and shape their world?
How can parents and educators help them learn these values, knowledge and skills?
Join us and impact beyond the book.
Photo credit for all the photos in this article: International School of Brussels
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