Conversations about education are often dominated by opinions about what education should look like based on visions of the future. Social media, trade show flyers and school bulletin boards show warnings about the future, and what education should change to meet these needs.
While this vision may be compelling, we know that the future isn’t so reliable. This kind of anticipation of future needs is unproductive. Nobody – not Warren Buffet nor the sharpest midway card reader – can accurately foretell the future or future trends, be it next week, next year, or 25 years down the road.
It stands to reason, then, that learners (of all ages), parents and educators should question any assertions that future prosperity can be linked with any certainty to training based in, for example, STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) subjects, as is currently fashionable.
Interestingly, no one knows this better than the biggest kid on the tech block – Google, which recently learned through its in-house ‘Project Oxygen’ that, over time, its most successful managers were neither its engineers nor straight-A recruits that they were prioritizing but employees with so-called ‘soft skills’ steeped in relational and communication-based competencies. These people were actually working against the company flow to help shape and inspire Google to become the dominant force it has become.
Google’s discovery prompted it to change its practices to reflect and leverage this lesson, which I also perceive as important to education and to SelfDesign.
That lesson is to recognize the importance of the present day where, if one is willing to slow down, test one’s assumptions, and carefully observe what is emerging, we can and will see different things than we perceived before.
This lesson lives in SelfDesign where our praxis as educators and parents is to, first, slow down and carefully observe children. Through this we will perceive learning unfolding in play, conversation and interaction, personal projects, and free-ranging exploration. One reason for this is because we’re primed to learn, biologically, 24 x 7. And with some nudging or just tacit support, this emergent learning, individually and socially, can be impressive.
I have witnessed this in countless learners over the years I’ve been a SelfDesign educator. Supporting ‘here-and-now’ emergent learning is an act of confirming the legitimacy of all learners as-and-how-they-are-now and what they are learning. This confirmation, subtle as it is, strengthens self confidence in learners, leading to deeper and wider exploration, and opening many new avenues of learning to discover.
I recognize that future-oriented curricula may contribute to motivating learning and goal-setting, but it’s time for it to share the stage with ‘here-and-now’ emergent learning as a prime for learning, and not strive to be the dominant voice. You can Google it.
Written by Michael Maser, Stakeholder Focus Support Coordinator at the SelfDesign Learning Foundation