Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Future Will Force Us to Change

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Michio Kaku on what scientific advances will change our life in the next 90 years.  The lecture was sponsored by the Lackawanna County Library System and was free to any member of the public with a library card.  Over a thousand people attended.  Every seat in the theater was full, and many people stood without seats to hear what the future has in store for us.

Dr. Kaku began by telling us about scientific advances that are already being explored and that will be part of our lives by the year 2020.  One of his reoccurring themes was the fact that computers and the internet are going to be so inexpensive, ubiquitous, and natural to us in the future that everything, including our clothes, wallpaper, toilets, and toothbrushes will be "smart."

As he discussed the year 2020, Dr. Kaku showed us contact lenses that would be connected to the internet.  Apparently, the military is already working on something similar.  Information would be available to you instantly without anyone knowing that you are even searching or getting it.  One of the humorous moments was when Dr. Kaku mentioned that, "The first people to buy these contact lenses will be college students taking examinations."  As I chuckled, I immediately thought to myself, "I don't think many high school teachers or college professors would think that is so funny."

I've often written about the need for us to change the focus of education from delivering instruction of fact to teaching critical thinking and innovation.  It seems as though the technology of the future is going to force our hand.  Right now, information is becoming more and more pervasive in our culture.  We teach students things that they know they can Google in less than 30 seconds on their cell phone.  Students believe that the education we are providing is irrelevant because of this.

Within the next decade students won't have to pull out their cellphones, and we won't be able to prevent them from wearing contact lenses in the classroom.  They will be connected to to an almost infinitely large network of information.  When that time comes, schools will be forced to make the changes I mentioned above.  The focus of our assessments, and education in general, is going to have to change from low-level thinking recall of information to gathering information and using it to create, innovate, problem solve, and communicate with others.

Why not make those changes now, before technology forces our hand?