If Digital Is the Old Normal What’s Next?
Coronavirus has accelerated a transformation that was already well past its tipping point. Now, through the current wave of digitization, our education systems have also been teleported through the vortex of cyberspace to rematerialise in a parallel universe where the younger generation is already comfortably co-existing with the opportunities and implications of digital connectivity. Meanwhile, for the older generations, the one-time so familiar spaces such as work, home, shops have turned into mazes of intrigue and mystery. Now, we’re all learning together how to best navigate the post COVID landscape.
“It’s Not Just About the Tools Anymore”
The educational sector, in broad terms, has been caught in a twilight zone where the typical age gap between teacher and student tends to be further cleaved apart by the difference in attitude towards new digital tools. Some progressive institutions saw the potential for embracing the change early on and are leading the march into a new era of learning. This transformation is not just about the tools. It’s also about the change of mindset and behaviours needed to make the best use of them. Today’s learning calls for greater flexibility and structures that adjust to constantly changing situations quickly and organically while remaining open and inclusive. It calls for the capacity to engage the students in self-organized learning and the educator becomes less of a lecturer and more an active learner in the process.
This is already overdue since for the work of tomorrow the students today have to develop digital literacy. It is not so much about switching from analogue into digital tools but to engage in the collaborative potential the new tools offer equally for students, teachers and parents. Most parents will have observed an infant scribbling away with a crayon and noticed the freedom with which they express themselves in the process. It’s a striking experience to witness the unimpeded spirit of creativity that makes no distinction between what is being felt inside and the physical space they happen to be inhabiting. This creative instinct is intrinsic to our sense of humanity, connectedness. Yet, by the time we’re 6 or 7 years old, we may have already have lost it. To truly live and learn we have to reconnect with this creative core again not least because it’s the same “organ” that looks after our sense of self and, ultimately, our health.
Learning is Leading
The educators of today and for the foreseeable future are visionary collaborators who inspire and nurture the desire to engage with real-world issues in creative ways. This mindset has to be established early on in the education journey to produce balanced, agentic, self-directed, citizens who are comfortable navigating 21st-century socio-economic paradigms. In other words, we need to look beyond the dollar in our pocket, past the post-truth horizon to a new era of sustainability and, quite frankly, make some serious choices.
“Learning Never Exhausts the Mind”
– Leonardo Da Vinci
If the purpose of the post-industrial education systems was to prepare society’s young for a life of work in the factories and the attendant management structures then no wonder institutions like Trade Unions emerged as the counterbalancing force. The ambition, laudable as it may have been, was a message before its time and spawned an ideological battle that ended with the geopolitical polarisation we came to know as market-driven capitalism versus state-controlled communism. The two diametrically opposed schools of thought are equally lacking when it comes to framing the nature of work in the 21st century. As a result, there is scope for new thought leadership.
Silo building skills are redundant are well and truly redundant and, boundaries are blurred and diminishing in the glare of the possibilities offered by the new yet undefined paradigms of collaboration. Today the world of education and work are converging to decode the kaleidoscopic nature of society’s wicked issues and understand them as relational concepts that can be acted upon by the many, not the few. Skills are no longer fixed propositions but flexible competencies that can be continuously configured to navigate the next set of uncertainties. A leader is anyone, of any age, in any circumstance, who chooses to rise to this challenge while making space for others.