Friday, August 7, 2015

Success in Education: Marc Prensky and the Future

On July 19, the first evening of the 2015 SMART Global SEE (SMART Exemplary Educators) Summit, SMART Technologies offered the participants a real treat. We were privileged to hear from the one and only Marc Prensky who spoke about what success in education means in a new, emerging context. Those of you who attended ISTE 2012 in San Diego remember him as a keynote speaker along with Sir Ken Robinson and Mayim Bialik.
Prensky's topic was "Expanding Minds for the Third Millennium: The Future of Education and Teaching."

In this keynote session, Prensky discussed some important ideas and new perspectives about success in education connected to the future of our kids, the future of technology, and the future of education. This is all part of a new paradigm with a new goal, a new pedagogy, and a new curriculum.

Prensky states, "I try hard to see the world – and education – from the perspective of young people!"

We all know that our students will do better if we are preparing them for the future, but how many of us are actually doing that? Unfortunately, not many, because this curriculum does not yet exist. Will it come from technology? We know that technology amplifies human desires; but the solutions lie within people – their hearts, minds, and will – technology alone cannot prepare our students for the future.

Prensky explained that we live in a new and changing context - a world moving at an accelerated pace with a population rising dramatically. This combined with quickly evolving new attitudes towards many important things is leading to rising levels of anxiety. Technology can help us keep up with our ever changing world. But to be successful, we must prepare our students to become globally empowered by connecting them with real world problems and real world solutions. Kids today have extended brains connected by a worldwide Internet - and they know it. Technology does not do the job; rather, it merely amplifies what people are doing and their human desires.

"If I lost my mobile phone, I lose half my brain," said a high school student.

Think of today's kids as extended brains, all networked together. If we are treating them what they were 50 years ago, then we're not treating them what they are.

Prensky explained, "Kids are adapting to the future much faster than many of us. Kids grew up in one culture – a digital culture so they are all digital natives, where adults grew up in a different culture and are immigrating to another culture."

"The new technologies – potentially – enable our kids to do new and powerful things in the world, and do them, earlier, faster, and in far greater quantity."

We will have globally empowered kids if we do our job right. Our kids need, with our help, to develop the "heart, mind, and will" to use technology wisely, to accomplish positive things. Technology should be used for things we couldn't do beforehand – not for trivial things.

We don't know how to educate anymore – a new context requires a new education. We are currently on the cusp between two educational paradigms: one old, one new, and the merging. The old paradigm is "Education as Learning." The new emerging paradigm is "Education as Becoming."

We need to ensure our kids become good, capable, and world-improving people. The best means of becoming is real-world accomplishment.

"Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment," said Thomas Carlyle.

Education is not about the grades they get today, but a resume of real-world accomplishments. Our current curriculum provides an education useful for the context of the last couple of centuries – but not the 21st century. Success in education means teaching our students effective thinking, action, relationships, and real-world accomplishment. That's what will improve the world as we prepare our students for the future.