Friday, 22 January 2016

Schools will always be needed, no matter how intuitive technology may become!

On my first day back at school this year one of the first staff members I caught up with was the Property Manager. After swapping holiday stories and lamenting the fact we were back at work already he suddenly declared, very enthusiastically, how he LOVED his job. I was amazed as he explained passionately why he loves working at school and apart from liking the everyday jobs he carries out, it was the people and sense of community that was the most rewarding.

Over the next few days I caught up with other admin staff members sharing personal stories and generally re-connecting after a considerable break. I reflected how at ease we all were in each other’s company and how everyone genuinely seemed happy to be back working together. This feeling of belonging and contentment to be back at work is a sign of a happy community and a healthy working culture. This is what schools are all about – healthy productive relationships based on trust, transparent communications and collaboration towards a common goal – being the best school we can be!

Our very happy Property Manager!
In essence, working well with others is the key to profits and happiness at work (Psychologies, Nov 2015). Warmth, interest in others’ lives, actively listening and being open-minded is the soft skills of the future. These qualities are deemed essential for commercial success in the future and are naturally developed in schools everywhere.
The new catch phrase is soft is the new strong! And, schools are very aware that the future of learning will be based on the essential qualities of collaboration, sensitivity, empathy, and openness.

Professor Alan Tuckett, an acknowledged guru of adult education, says a forward-thinking society needs to look past education as schooling and see it as learning for life. He explains that when small groups of people learn together they naturally demonstrate active citizenship. I would agree but expand this statement to say:

When small groups of people work in a learning environment together they naturally demonstrate active citizenship

But will we need schools when computers will be able to provide an intuitive personalised learning journey?

Let’s consider the need for schools from the viewpoint of the rapidly growing ability of computers to provide personalised learning programmes.

Adaptive learning technology is a pedagogical method or process that draws on observation to inform tailored student educational interventions designed to increase the likelihood of learner success. Technology isn't actually required for personalization, but the technology makes it possible to personalize at scale (Waters, 2014).

Adaptive learning is an approach to creating a personalized learning experience for students that employs "a sophisticated, data-driven, and in some cases, nonlinear approach to instruction and remediation, adjusting to a learner's interactions and demonstrated performance level, and subsequently anticipating what types of content and resources learners need at a specific point in time to make progress."

Simply put, adaptive learning technology will build a learner profile lasting a lifetime which will dynamically modify and adjust based on complex data, such as a learner’s cognitive ability, their preferred mode of learning and emotional, social needs. Systems being developed at present are either assessment driven or content driven or a combination of both. Typically the content driven system will provide “facilitators” with information that they can act on. 

Using such technology will enhance personalised learning and cater for all learners’ needs with a self-paced highly intuitive learning environment. However, they will not encourage the essential “soft skills” to develop and grow. Students will always need face to face social learning opportunities in order to develop the key competencies and essential attributes and values needed to become successful global citizens.
The physical environment of schools will always be needed, as the relationships that naturally develop across the whole school community will ensure students of the future are strong in soft skills! Some of you will remember, even the Jetsons still went to school!

I am very happy to be back at work, sharing stories, working alongside others helping to prepare our school environment for another successful year of learning.

I say, the future of learning is soft!

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