I just finished reading what I consider to be a brilliant research paper, an observational study of normative student behavior in a university library by a third-year psychology student at University of California Irvine. (Full disclosure: the author of the paper is my daughter.) Her key conclusions? Even during one of the most academically demanding weeks of the term, students spend large amounts of their time in the library on non-academic activities: listening to music, responding to text or instant messages, non-academic surfing the internet, and viewing Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites.
These findings illustrate a trend that should be obvious to us all. Technology has altered the way we live, work, play, and learn. Moreover—and here’s the challenge—technology continues to evolve and change rapidly.
I just read an interesting article in the Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine, called Last Tech. The article listed a large number of long-standing, highly-used inventions that have recently faded away. The typewriter, road map, drinking fountain, hotel room key, for example, have been replaced—as have the individuals who made, used, or repaired these various devices.
Photo from Southwest Spirit magazine, March 2010
Clayton Christensen coined the phrase “disruptive innovation,” one new innovation that quickly displaces another.
Building on Christensen’s work, Scott McLeod has an interesting talk on Teaching and Learning in and Era of Disruptive Technology. McLeod argues that today’s workforce requires a range of new skills and abilities, different from those required in the industrial era, as depicted in this graphic from his presentation. I agree.
McLeod also offered the following slide illustrating how our current educational system is based on educating the workforce for the industrial age, not the digital and creative age.
It is a fundamental dilemma—not easily addressed. I am interested in your thoughts on this issue. How do we balance educating the workforce of the future within existing structure and institutions, preserving those elements of traditional education that have served us so well in the past? Is educating a competitive workforce of the future a matter of adaptive change, or is revolutionary change needed?