Knowledge is Obsolete

This week’s writing prompt is: How do you take up teaching in a world where knowledge is becoming obsolete? What steps should/could we as educators take in relation to bringing social networks into the classroom? How do we balance the “moral imperative” to educate children to succeed in a rapidly changing world (see the NCTE definition of 21st century literacies) with concerns around student safety and privacy?

To answer these questions one must first consider what “knowledge is becoming obsolete” means. I had a conversation with a coworker about what this statement means and how we as educators feel about it. We concluded that knowledge in the traditional context has indeed become obsolete and that the role of educators has changed from merely transferring information to students to learning how to interpret, utilize, and apply such information. This conversation was reinforced by Pavan Arora’s TedXTalk Knowledge is obsolete, so now what?

Arora explains that 65% of elementary school students will have jobs that currently do not exist but that job types have been changing since the beginning of time. Knowledge is changing faster than ever before, it is growing, access is increasing, and we must learn to assess and apply that knowledge. No matter what new information and data gets thrown at us, we must figure out how to use it. As educators, we need to teach the application of knowledge rather than the knowledge itself.

One of my favourite TedTalks is by Cameron Harold title Let’s Raise Kids to be Entrepreneurs. His message is what I believe education needs to revolve around – encouraging students to use their creativity and promoting their strengths as opposed to focusing on their weaknesses. It is important for students to learn and grow through experiences and creative thinking not just through textbook learning.

John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler reinforce these ideas in their article Minds on Fire; Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 In this article the authors point out that learning has shifted from the Cartesian perspective of focusing on the content of a subject (“I think, therefore I am”) to a focus of the learning activities and human interactions around which that content is situated (“we participated, therefore we are”). Learning has shifted from learning about or explicit instruction and understanding to learning to be or tacit learning.

Bringing social networks into the classroom can be done easier than ever and options will continue to evolve. From YouTube videos, to Twitter chats and hashtags, to Skype sessions with other classes or professionals, there is no shortage of ways to connect our students with social learning. For example, last year our grade 9 science students were provided the opportunity to Skype with a real professional astronaut where they learned more about his life, his experiences and training as an astronaut, and were able to ask him questions. This type of learning experience never would have been an option 20 years ago, but as our connected world continues to grow so do the learning opportunities for our students.

As a part-time career counselor I am constantly faced with the challenge of helping to prepare our students for careers that have yet to be invented. In March 2018, RBC launched a Canada-wide research report titled Humans Wanted; How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption. 

This report and video showcase the skills that our students require to be successful in any future career path. Instead of preparing students for specific careers, we must teach them the skills which they can utilize in any career path such as technical skills, management skills, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and analytic skills.

1 Comment

Filed under EC&I 831

One response to “Knowledge is Obsolete

  1. Great blog! I don’t think it is that far fetched to train people for jobs that won’t exist yet. When I was in school I thought the shelf stocker at superstore that got to cruise around on roller blades had the best job never. Now employees oversee people on self checkout isles. I was a motorhand on a drilling rig just three days prior to starting my University career. Most of those rigs have been turned into scrap iron by now, I don’t think the concept is new… perhaps just speeding up. I completely agree with the idea that we must teach social intelligence and critical thinking skills so students are better equipped to deal with change.

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