When I was young I hated the phrase “When I was young…” It was always the beginning of a long and boring lecture about life by someone older than thirty complaining about “things being different”. Without doubt, time passes and things change, and, as humans, we may have difficulties dealing with, adapting to and understanding change. Change is inevitable, and it happens faster thanks to technology: changes in procedures, attitudes and professions. Technology brings to our screens a world in which certainly there are millions living in premodern societies, while others thrive in futuristic surroundings (the documentary “Babies” by director Balmes is a great and entertaining reference to these differences). Some may believe that education by itself does not solve world problems and social inequalities, but those who think that way are focusing only on formal education. Education encompasses not only instruction given in the sanctuary of a classroom; rather it includes non-formal training, self-training, distance learning and community projects.
Changes in procedures
The obvious that comes to mind is the digitalization of many tasks previously done by hand. Eight years ago I worked for a private school that implemented a digital grade book. The system allowed teachers to post grades, to keep an electronic calendar for exams (shared by all teachers) and email parents. The administration was able to monitor how often teachers posted grades and how teachers graded students. The main beneficiaries of these procedures were parents and students. While teachers 30 and younger adapted to the changes, older teachers became angry and frustrated, especially those that did not use a computer at home. More and more, many tasks in our jobs and personal life will be online. In the past, reading and writing was enough, but nowadays digital knowledge is a must. With so much information available, it’s necessary to be a savvy reader, and, as a professional, to articulate and formulate new ideas not simply copy someone else’s words. In the age of entrepreneurs, being able to establish a presence online is vital. Procedures will keep evolving just as software programs and online networks become updated.
Changes in attitudes
In order to survive in the contemporary world, the individual has to rely on a solid moral core and a strong psyche. Institutions that used to tell us how to be or behave crumble in front of our eyes: sex scandals in the church, corrupt politicians, the allure of consumerism… it may prove too much for those not raised to take decisions in a logical and ethical way. The democratic values necessary to live in a multiethnic and multicultural society have to be, in many cases, relearned. All groups have to relearn democratic values: it´s not only an issue of white versus black, since all ethnic groups practice different forms of non inclusion. The uprising of the extreme right in many Europeans countries is just an example of the above. In a global world, those capable of practicing tolerance, inclusion and respect for human rights will construct stronger societies in the long term. Activism has become a way to attain political space and promote changes in legislations. Those who do not organize themselves and are not able to communicate their needs to the media and governmental representatives will be left out of the democratic debate.
Changes in professions
Children are educated for jobs not yet created. Education took a quantum leap from rote memorization to innovative collaboration in a century. Pioneers in the field of education keep telling us that it is necessary to address different learning styles and guide children to be curious about the world around them. Digital learning considers knowledge as a community achievement and a result of collaborative problem solving.
(See for example What We’re Learning from Technology-Transformed Schools: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/education/education-it-leadership-revolutionizing-education-what-were-learning-from-technology-transformed-schools-paper.html.)
Science, math, and language arts are as necessary as emotional intelligence. Learning and relearning are not exclusively related to theoretical knowledge, but learning and relearning about ourselves as individuals. A global economy opens the door to intercultural exchange, several career paths and relocation. In order to be a competent professional, there is no other way but to undertake constant training. A recurrent trend is that there is a shortening of the average life of companies, occupations and the time that individuals expend in a particular job (see for example the 2001 paper by Helen Praetz, Learning and re-learning: Education and the workplace: http://www.fabian.org.au/946.asp).
What you learned in college is not going to last a lifetime. The XXI century offers a wide assortment of relearning opportunities such as online learning, podcasts, and video lessons; mentoring… helping others relearn is one of the big businesses of our times.