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.
Think back to your teachers at school. What characterised them? In schools, the approaches to teaching and authority tend to group themselves into four key categories.
These categories apply just as readily to forms of leadership that we come across in workplaces, teams and the public sphere. The traps that teachers fall into are just as dangerous for leaders in any industry and the potential for both harm and good is just as strong.
The need for change in education has been an urgent topic of interest in recent years. As it is perhaps the most future-focussed industry that exists, equipping the innovators, workers and leaders of tomorrow, its vulnerability to current disruption is a necessary area of concern.