Who’s asking the questions? Building knowledge towards 2030.

28 feb. 2018 |

Reflections from Glenn Wagner, Varkey Teacher Ambassador, 2015

Here is an uncomfortable truth that 21st century teachers need to know:  the teacher as a ‘professional processor’ of knowledge and ‘sage on the stage’ delivering  knowledge in the classroom is quickly coming to a close.

Astonishingly, students now have online access to what is essentially the entire history of human knowledge.  Teachers need to acknowledge the reality that the online world can provide experiences with knowledge, and the delivery of that knowledge, in ways that is more convenient, interactive, engaging –  perhaps more entertaining than any teacher is likely to offer in their own classroom.

This will only accelerate as virtual reality systems begin to enter the mainstream classroom.  In the meantime, we need conversations on how to create new learning environments that go beyond helping students to simply acquire knowledge.  The Global Education & Skills Forum 2018 is the place for such conversations.

Let’s start with a question: what happens to the knowledge people acquire during school when they finally leave for the world of work?

They build with it.  Consider the many objects surrounding you right now that were built using the minds and hands of others.  From the buildings we live in, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, or the cars we drive, each of these objects are made possible by generating new ideas that made these objects better in some way, made them more useful to more people.  In short, idea generation and idea improvement are a way of life in our world.

Ironically, most schools rarely evaluate let alone acknowledge a students’ ability to ask good questions and work productively and collaboratively with ideas. Given its out-in-the-world pervasiveness, we should begin focusing classroom resources and pedagogies on giving students practice in asking good questions and working with ideas.  The world of today as we head to 2030, is expecting just that.

When given the opportunity, students readily embrace the culture and practice of building knowledge through question asking and idea improvement.  In fact, this type of work is in high demand in today’s knowledge-based economy and is likely to grow stronger as we approach 2030.  Predictably, teachers will need to change the focus of their teaching practice from knowledge ‘expert’ to knowledge ‘facilitator’ to meet a new standard for a changing economy.

This means guiding students in formulating good questions and ideas about their world. It means guiding them in sourcing expert knowledge, and guiding productive collaboration and idea sharing among the students both online and face-to-face.  For this to work, teachers must become comfortable letting go of those roles that were once believed only a teacher could manage: goal setting, question asking, expertise, idea generation, and assessment of progress.

Working with questions and ideas is just as messy in the real world as it will be in the classroom.  But we mustn’t let that stop us from utilizing the power and creativity of those young minds.  Each student is a question asker, idea generator, collaborator and problem solver.  Yes, acquiring knowledge is important.  But it’s what they build with knowledge that makes all the difference in the world.

The Global Education and Skills Forum is taking place on 17th and 18th March 2018 in Dubai, UAE, with the theme of “How do we prepare young people for the world of 2030 and beyond?” I am looking forward to these topics and more emerging at the Public Briefing –The future of educational technology on Sunday 18th March.