The future of education has arrived

Just yesterday in a passionate exchange with my wife I was proposing why we are on the cusp of something new in education, that the old order was done for. I imagined how the star teacher could lead a team and education 1000 at a time, brand John Sowash from his media room broadcasting to the world using edtech and algorithms to deliver content, provide feedback and take students through a real and lasting learning experience. I took, by way of example, a geography teacher – you know the one, that person who brought the subject alive. I had such a teacher at such a school as Harrow and until I finally cleared out the lock-up garage full of junk I even had my project on the glaciation of the Eden Valley _ I may still have some of my exercise books. They could have ‘taught the world’. When it got to our final year we were told we were already studying at undergraduate level – he was doing it to maintain our interest – to keep us challenged. And so it proved in my first year at Oxford – the lecturers may have been the people who ‘wrote the book’, but the book had been on our reading lists.

‘Follow the money’ I crudely proposed in a talk I gave on the future of employability on Thursday night. The same phrase could apply to education.

Harrow has the money. So has Eton, Eastbourne College, Brighton College and Sedbergh, Winchester, Cheltenham College, Rossall, Fetes and Gordonstoun … and some of these have a powerful brand too. It can now be bottled and sold online. You like in Singapore, South Africa or China and want ‘the British Public School’ education? You can now have it. Your child does not need to travel across for the world for it. They can do it from the ‘safety’ of home. Of course they have their own room, with a desk and desktop computer (and a laptop, ipad and smartphone). Superfast broadband is a given. Classes online and a local tutor can provide some face to face (if and when required).

The learning is planned by a team and delivered by a superstar. The very best teachers will command star salaries to match. Though in time, the way music has gone, the song our teachers sing will be fine tuned, the algorithms will indicate the best way to teach, it will flex to suit the learner as ‘learning and development’ has tried to do in the corporate world for the last decade and had succeeded at doing for the last five.

I thought education was on the launchpad; I hadn’t realised the rockets had started to leave planet earth.

My only advice to Harror is this – why wait until September 2021 to enrol students? Reinvent the school calendar as well and enroll the first cohort to start taking classes after Easter. Indeed, why have terms at all? Go the way of online degrees and enroll on a rolling basis every few months.

I’ll be saying this often these next few weeks as the first players in the new world order of education emerge -“this changes everything”.

I have a poster I put up in the School of Geography in 1983 inviting lecturers to let me video their lectures. I was ahead of my time then. I hate being behind, but enjoy chasing the shadow of the next big thing as it runs off down the street without me.

I could go on, but I’ll keep it for the next post.

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