Why do people continue to ignore what is happening in our world?
Last year, I gave almost weekly presentations on how technology is transforming the way we live, work, think, communicate.
My audiences were diverse. Both geographically — I travel a lot — and in terms of background and age: students, business people, government bureaucrats, lawyers, and officials at international organizations.
People generally buy the story that we are entering a new world — the digital revolution is real, it is here to stay, and it changes everything.
What happens then is interesting. People acknowledge the change, but immediately shrug their shoulders and say that it doesn’t affect them personally. Their work and lives continue as before. Or, so they claim.
And although I understand this denial, I always want to ask them a question:
“Compare your life now with ten years ago and ask yourself, what has changed?”
We often tend to ignore disruption because its signs aren’t visible yet. New technologies have always led to disruption, the emergence of new markets, new behaviors, and new vocabulary.
But, in the past, disruption usually affected only a small group of people. At least initially. Advances in automated production weren’t visible to someone who never visited a factory. Advances in medical technology weren’t visible until you visited a hospital.
Earlier periods of technological change took much longer to disseminate and disrupt the settled patterns of everyday life. Technology-driven social change was generational. The slow pace of change made it harder to see and easier to accept.
Things are different now. Shorter innovation cycles and faster adoption rates. Widely available mobile devices and global networks that change everything.
The “Ten-Year Test”
Let me give you my personal experience of how my life has transformed over the last decade.
I have been a teacher for more than 25 years. I love it! It’s a calling. Presenting. Sharing. Inspiring. And Learning.
The last decade felt like a rollercoaster ride. Everything changed. This excitement made me love teaching even more.
Notably, the learning part has become so much more important. I have always been a big believer in lifelong learning. And you could experience the growing importance of this “learning feeling” as a teacher over the last ten years.
And here, I don’t refer to what I learn from continuously updating my teaching materials. Also, I don’t only talk about what I learn from the students.
No, I refer to the disruption in education.
I am amazed that most of my colleagues don’t take the signs of disruption seriously. Most of them don’t even notice. Or, they would deny anything important is happening.
And yet, the signs are everywhere. The disruption just started, and with the expected pace of change, we need to prepare for the bigger changes to come in the 2020s.
The Why, The What & The How are Changing
Why we teach is changing. It is shifting from preparing students for their future, their career, their success in enabling them to design our future, the success of the next generation.
The focus of what we teach is also changing. Knowledge is still relevant. However, we should realize that with the emergence of the Internet and social media, most “knowledge” is readily available to young and old wherever they are.
The result? We see more attention to soft skills. Teamwork. Communication. Creative thinking. Problem-solving. Tech-savviness. Leadership.
But what I notice is that it is now crucial to go beyond teaching “knowledge” and “skills.” I must teach my students the attitude — a mindset — that is needed to continually reinvent not only themselves but also society in a digital age. This is what they want and expect.
Last, I observe a transformation in “the how” of education. Teaching becomes more and more decentralized. Teachers aren’t the central authority in the classroom anymore.
Teachers are influencers. And this influencer-work can be divided into three complementing Cs: Coordinator, Collaborator, Co-creator.
So, an essential part of my job is to teach the students how to learn in a world where informal peer-to-peer and self-learning is becoming the new normal.
And It Doesn’t Stop Here
The 2010s was the decade in which the digital revolution went global and mainstream. There was a lot of naivety and a lot of denial about technology and the companies that were driving this change.
Over the last year, one can see the beginnings of a much more skeptical attitude, as people begin to ask difficult questions about the social implications of the new world we are creating.
Denial won’t be an option anymore.
So, this is what I predict for the 2020s. We will see much more and deeper discussion about the “architecture of the future” and what it means for our everyday lives, for our communities and societies, and for the world.
What are the main principles in our tech-driven world? What are the building blocks? How has technology changed the way we communicate? How do we want to work in the future? How can we use technology to deal with climate change? The list goes on.
Let’s change the conversation together. Start fresh!