Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trends shaping education

While there are many trends that are currently shaping education there are a couple that I am going to discuss for the purpose of this MindLab assignment.

There is no doubt that the number of robotics in the world in increasing and there is a range of jobs that robots are taking over. Where I first became interested in educational robotics, robots were great at doing the jobs that were 'dirty, dull and dangerous,' basically the jobs that people didn't want to do.

Now as well robots are venturing into areas that surprise many people. For example robot journalists are great for churning out articles that can be written on the basis of a lot of data and encompass a rather formulaic style of writing. White collar workers had presumed they were protected from having their jobs taken over by 'robots' but robots are also venturing into the role of such professions as law. But rather than actually having robots taking over these professions it is more that the professions are changing to integrate automation and machine intelligence. We need to acknowledge that automated technology (robots for example) are a lot better at dealing with big data sets than human beings are, and if a task is something that is basically an algorithm then it will probably be done more accurately and a lot quicker by a machine than by a human. But for something where a creative solution is required then I do think that humans still have the upper hand. And, of course, the increased demand for robotics and automation will mean a huge rise in jobs in these fields.

Nowadays robots are also becoming more visible in the classroom as a teaching and learning tool (not replacing the teacher yet). As with all curricula just having some robots in your class that students can use or build and programme is not enough. Learning outcomes need to be clear and the robot kits (presuming most educators purchase robot kits) need to have the capacity to involve students in a range of activities that are as close to real world as possible. Less expensive kits may not be as customisable, there may be a smaller range of sensors, they may be limited in the ways they can be constructed to interact with the environment and they may only be programmable in limited ways. There are also a range of Communities of Practice around different robotics systems and this can either support or limit teachers depending on the range of resources and the strength of the support community available. So, before schools invest in having robots in the classroom I would suggest they explore the range of robots now available and choose one that meets the learning outcomes they desire.

With the rise of the Internet and social media there is no doubt that the world has become a smaller place in many ways. Globalisation is all about integrating at a global level - many say this is a positive aspect with increasing possibilities for all, but cynics see it as just another way for the 'haves' to exploit the 'have nots'.

So what does this have to do with teachers?

  • How do we provide a global education - and not just the three f's - food, flags and festivals - but one where students develop an understanding of their rights and responsibilities as global citizens?
  • How can we provide our students with real world opportunities to develop the skills necessary to use social media to support citizen engagement and make the world a better place?
  • How do we provide opportunities for students to cooperate with others outside the walls of their own school?
  • How do we include global issues such as climate change and urbanisation in our curriculum?
  • How do we enable students to develop understanding of the multiple perspectives held by different cultures and peoples, and to accept and celebrate the differences and diversity?
  • How do we do all of the above, but still connect to self, understanding local issues and make the connections from these to global perspectives?
These are all questions that as an educator I continue to explore as an educator and I hope, that as long as I am striving to answer them, I am somewhat heading in the right direction. 


  1. Kia ora Jill, I enjoyed reading your post about robotics and automation. I think it would be almost impossible to program a real 'teacher robot' as creativity is such a human trait that could never be programmed or coded into a robot. Also empathy is something else that teachers have the capacity for, and I can't imagine a robot will ever be able to show true empathy towards humans.

    1. Hi Francesca, Thanks for your comment. I agree that I don't see a future where robots replace teachers but they could supplement them - as long as that was not seen as an opportunity to reduce teacher/child ratio!! I have put in a couple of interesting links below. Have a great day, Jill

  2. Automated teachers, an interesting concept. At least they would have a greater capacity to take more of what our students can dish out. If you think about it with the introduction of flipped learning and digital learning we have already begun to automate teachers.