Educating (relevant) humans

AI, machine learning, humanity versus computers. The future of education in a digital age. Overwhelming, to say the least.

Working on a science fiction movie about the impact of robots and artificial intelligence on humanity, my co-working space colleague Finn E. Bugge asked a daunting question:

“If there is one thing that you could do to change the educational system and future-proof your students, what would that be “

My answer came fast and clear.

Stop teaching

And by teaching- I mean lecturing as a default modus operandi for imparting knowledge.

Not teaching means you have to start imagining a different process, perhaps integrate technology differently- ask what would different stakeholders need and let the students do more of the job.

What could that look like? How does the possible, plausible, probable and preferable future for your students look like? The final presentation at the  2019 Learning festival for higher education in Trondheim, Norway, was about the work the University of Edinburgh has been doing on Near future teaching, a 2 year long project to design a value based preferred future for education in a digital age.

Their result is an example of stakeholder involvement and anchoring their initiative across a very traditional institution. The values they came up with are so profoundly human -  experience over assessment, diversity and justice, relationships first, and participation and flexibility.

In their process, they used design thinking, future thinking and community based design to involve teachers, students and administrative staff, and more. Sian Bayne, professor in digital education and leader of the Near future teaching project, though clearly proud of what they had achieved, described the process as" messy and frustrating,”  because you have to trust that from a million of questions and answers, ideas and opinions, something beautiful WILL emerge.

Yes, not teaching IS messy - and that skill needs to be consistently trained.


Perhaps those teachers who are most used to handling messy processes are art teachers, and Creativity has been described a both a process and desired outcome of general education worldwide. AKA profoundly human.

Recent research about  assessing creativity in lower secondary schools (Lutnæs, 2018) reveals that there are 4 dimensions of creativity teachers work with : being persistent, being inquisitive, being disciplined, and being imaginative.  You can guess that imagination - playing with possibilities, and making connections - is one dimension that is mostly identified as fun, and thus very present/easy to assess, along with the disciplined aspect -  crafting, developing techniques, and reflecting critically.

The surprising result of this research is that several aspects about creativity go completely under the radar, and are NEVER rehearsed upon. Among the ignored components are ….tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, challenging assumptions and using intuition.

The problems we need to solve in the near future are wicked, and they have no clear answer. Staying messy, and being comfortable with that, is something we definitely need to rehearse, because our natural tendency is we want to get out of it as soon as possible.  Organized chaos in education is something schools need to be trained into.

Co-design the future with your students

If the future doesn`t look like the one you like, make a new one. Involve your students - tell them why do you need to do this now, how and when do they want to be involved, and what do they need from you as teachers. You would be surprised how high expectations they have and how much they know.

START this week - next week is already the future.