If all of the signs are accurate, the world is going through another rapid shift in the work machines can do well that we humans used to be the only game in town who could. Tasks such as article writing, brick laying, package delivery and driving are in striking distance of machine takeover. The compliance-centered schools of the last 130 years do not focus on the qualities of human-centered learning that prepare us to work in a world where we thrive rather than become marginalized.
The definition of school as mostly about learning standardized content is obsolete. As Ed Hess, UVA Darden Biz School and Learn or Die author, says: humans can out compete smart machines right now through our creativity, critical thinking, generation of new ideas and innovations, and emotional intelligence.
Yet, these are not areas that we traditionally emphasize in Pk-16 school curricula. Instead, we tinker around the edges of content learning and think we are reinventing schooling. We are not. We may shift to putting a little more context to learning in some classrooms but that is mostly random, not systemic.
Radical change would involve educators learning how to create contextual learning opportunities and then pulling in the content as needed. What’s a problem we could work to solve? What’s something you want to make? How might we design … ? Rather than just planning for teaching decontextualized content standards and isolated skills, what if we designed for transdisciplinary learning where the context we create pulls from multiple content disciplines? In doing so, children create, think, make, explore novel ideas, engineer, build, and figure out problems worth solving in their world. They collaborate together but learn to work alone as well. And, they acquire transferable competencies that allow them to grow and develop in careers that will be revised, edited, and even deleted as the 21st and 22nd centuries evolve new technologies.
This kind of learning provides a context for life readiness — as children grow up into adult family and community members, thoughtful citizens, flexible, competent workforce members, and learners for life.
What more could we want for our children and our children’s children?