This year, more than any, we have seen the power of fake news. Politics, climate change, public scandals and the virus which has overwhelmed our year, have revealed a vulnerability in society’s ways of consuming news and information.
My colleague and friend Claire Madden suggests that students today are increasingly ‘brokers of information’ not ‘knowers of content’. This is an important distinction and a dangerous trend as it means students are often very willing to propagate information without discerning its veracity or accuracy. This trend in young people carries just as easily to older generations whose engagement on digital platforms also leaves them vulnerable to misinformation.
In a world of fake news, alternative facts and conspiracy theories, in which each individual learns and shares information on complex and powerful digital platforms, this trend reaches new levels of danger. The ability to discern fact from fiction is fundamental.
It has become a well-known fact in recent years that driverless cars are a future that is soon to arrive. In characteristically ambitious fashion, Tesla founder Elon Musk suggests we will see true autonomous driving available to the public within the next few years. Quartz magazine’s Zack Kanter is equally optimistic, predicting that autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030. In the near future, brands like Ford are aiming for a target market of commercial-fleet operators and possibly ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft.
But, what will these developments mean for the everyday life, law and ethics of our near future?
Perhaps the most common fear of teachers in a classroom is that of losing control. The fear of students running amok and dominating the room is enough to send many teachers back into the traditional authoritarian format, where silent and repetitive work is the key means of learning. In my experience of working with schools and teachers, the words ‘Project-Based Learning’ are often quick to conjure up these fears.
Over my years of working in the business world around ideas of innovation and leadership, one lesson I have learned is that there is a lesson to be learned in most places. I must admit though, when I sat down to watch Frozen 2 with my son, I did not expect it to be one of these places.
One of the strangest notions I come across routinely in my work with educators is that of the ‘real world’, usually spoken of in opposition to the world of education. When leaders, parents or teachers themselves separate the education of tomorrow’s workers, leaders and problem-solvers, from their future real world, they put that future at a serious risk.
In order to make learning experiences meaningful and impactful, it is this divide between the learning environment and the so-called ‘real world’ that needs to be demolished. Teachers who hope to make learning relevant and engaging must go to great lengths to bring the outside world into their classrooms. While in the past there were practical barriers to this, technology enables a real connection with the outside world in some wonderfully exciting ways.
For as long as work has existed in the form we know it, the idea of a workplace has been a given. Work has traditionally been the place you go between 9 and 5, Monday and Friday, where the tasks of your job are conducted in the vicinity of your colleagues.
Recent years have seen changes in the workplace begin to emerge with the advent of automation and Artificial Intelligence. Working from home has become a viable option for many businesses in recent years as our capacity for online connection has increased and autonomous work has risen in popularity along with collaborative work.
Along with lockdowns, shopping frenzies and social distancing, COVID has brought the technologies that we once reserved for years down the track right to our doorstep. While Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have slowly but surely been infiltrating our daily lives in recent years, COVID has accelerated this to an unprecedented extent.
Whatever the circumstance, one thing we can be sure of is that the future is coming. No matter the success of the standards and systems of the past, disruption is inevitable. Incidentally, it is in crises that the future often arrives. Think back to some of the biggest technological innovations of the past and you will find yourself in the greatest wars and struggles of history.
COVID is no different. The past few months have seen the future that we knew was awaiting us arrive far ahead of schedule bringing with it the innovations and solutions that we were promised in a decade.