The Driverless Car: Flexibility and Imagination

Imagine having the technology to have cars that drive without a human driver.  Think about it for a minute.  What will that mean for our daily lives?  How would that change your morning commute?  What other inventions may occur as a result of not needing to drive? Recently National Public Radio did a short story on the Driverless Car Technology and where it is now.  (http://www.npr.org/2012/01/17/145357668/where-is-driverless-car-technology-now)  The driverless car technology is on the horizon.  What other inventions are coming that will change the way we think and how do we help prepare our students for this future that sounds like science fiction?

It is often said we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist right now and to use tools that we can’t even begin to imagine.  Our challenge is to use the tools we have now to prepare our students for this future.  In pondering this question and reading many articles, two main themes became very clear: flexibility and imagination.

We want the best schools but we seem to be stuck in the way things have always been done.  Parents and teachers expect school to look like the school they attended.  To prepare our students for their future, and not ours’, we need to realize that there will be major paradigm shifts in what is meant by “going to school.”  One small example of flexible thinking is how some schools are using online tools and websites like the Khan Academy site to “flip” their instruction.  Students don’t have traditional homework but they go home and watch instruction, and return the next day ready to practice with a content specialist.  Think about the implications of this model and how it dramatically changes the look of traditional homework.  A student may not need to complete a set of practice problems but watch a video or play a game and be ready to talk about and work on problems related to these experiences!  Not only do we need to be flexible about what it means to go to school, we must be flexible in our thinking about instructional technology.  We need to embrace the fact that whatever we have is going to need to be upgraded or it will become outdated quickly. This means that we will have to learn new technologies at a fast rate alongside our students.  As educators we must also remain flexible in our thinking and learning; we can no longer get our degrees and be ready for the rest of our career.  We must be the life-long learners that we are preparing our students to be. We must continue to learn and explore in order to create the best learning for our students. We must be willing to change and keep changing.

Let’s go back to our driverless car; you’ve probably seen one.   It might have been in a cartoon or movie, something viewed as wildly imaginative.  A lot of our own inventions were once just a part of someone’s imagination, something to make life easier, more productive or maybe just more fun.  To help prepare our students we need to provide opportunities for them to use their imaginations and to be creative.  Our original education system was designed to create workers, ones who could follow directions and do repetitive tasks correctly.  As our world is transformed by new knowledge, new technologies, and new connections, we can see that traditional tasks and roles being replaced or becoming useless.  We have to begin to imagine that some of what we teach now is not going to be useful at all; some of our content will become archaic.  Some of our techniques and strategies will become cumbersome as technology and other inventions will make things easier.

Imagine a classroom that is not a room.  Imagine a school day that is not a day, defined by bells and defined schedules.  Imagine a grade level that is not defined by an age.  Imagine teachers learning alongside their students, collaboratively and cooperatively.   Just imagine!

More fuel for your imagination may be found in these links to articles which were read in preparation for creating this article.  Some of them contain slightly controversial subject matter. We are sharing them only as different viewpoints, not as endorsements.

http://creatingthefuturetoday.com/foreword This site offers 32 short chapters with paradigm shifting ideas and thoughts.  Be sure to watch the animation, it is fun!

http://www.21stcenturyskillsbook.com/pdf/21stCS_excerpt.pdf This link ties together goals of our original education systems and looks ahead to what will be needed.  This site has a “book” feel to it.

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb12/vol69/num05/Preparing-Students-to-Learn-Without-Us.aspx This article talks about personalizing learning with technology tools  and gives some examples of how some schools are already changing.

 

 

 

 


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