Thursday, 2 June 2016

Disappearing jobs and changing education

This week I read the following from 'The Main Report', a New Zealand business commentary newzine:

Robot Trucks Soon For US Roads. US developers say autonomous big rigs will be the next big thing on the road to a safer transportation system. US start-up Otto is equipping trucks with software, sensors, lasers and cameras so they will eventually be able to navigate 500,000km of US highways on their own, while a human driver naps in the back of the cab or handles other tasks. Initially the autonomous part would just be on the big highways or freeways leaving humans to navigate though city streets. The idea is similar to commercial jetliner autopilots, which fly the aircraft at high altitudes while leaving the takeoffs and landings to humans. There is a precedent – so far Google’s selfdriving cars have logged about 2m km in autonomous mode without being involved in a serious or fatal accident. Of the more than 20 accidents involving its self-driving cars Google has accepted the blame for only one. Otto already has installed its automated technology in three heavy rigs and completed its first extended test of the system on public highways in Nevada. It hopes to eventually retrofit all US trucks - more than 4.7m vehicles. It says the new technology will help alleviate a severe driver shortage in the US - last year, there were 47,500 too few, and this will rise to nearly 175,000 by 2024.
It follows hard on the heels of the recently reported transit of a driverless convoy travelling from Spain to Sweden. I also recently shared with staff an article featuring a robotic block laying machine that was faster and more accurate than any human block layer (and I've seen some absolute masters in my time).

Increasingly, the jobs that we have taken for granted throughout our lives are disappearing. I recently read a New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report that predicted that 46% of jobs as we know them today may disappear in the next 10-20 years.

Almost half the jobs in New Zealand may be done by computers and robots in the future, researchers say.
A study by the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) has found that 46 per cent of current jobs are at "high risk" of disappearing in the next decade or two.
Most that go will be relatively low-skilled and low-wage jobs. The study found that 78 per cent of labourers and 74 per cent of machine operators, drivers and clerical workers are at high risk.

 The advance of technology has a clear message for us in education: the things we have traditionally done will increasingly become irrelevant. If we don't change we will increasingly disadvantage our kids. The jobs they thought would be there for them simply won't be. What do we do?

No-one has THE definitive answer, but one thing is clear. Knowledge on its own is no longer enough. Schools must produce people who are critical, creative thinkers, people who can communicate and collaborate. We talk about these 'four Cs'. They represent the thinking curriculum. Of course you can't learn these things in a vacuum, you have to have something to think about, so knowledge still matters, although the nature or definition of knowledge has changed. It now means knowing stuff and being able to do something with what you know. (Jane Gilbert 'Catching the knowledge wave').

The days of the teacher standing at the front of the room delivering knowledge are fast coming to a close (if they aren't finished already). We can find almost any knowledge we want on the internet somewhere. Of course we all have to be able to think critically in order to evaluate what we find, determining whether it is valid or not. But it's the act of creation using that 'stuff' that we have to focus on in schools. That said, we all still need to be literate and numerate. After all, communication is impossible of we don't have at least one language with which to communicate, and some basic maths with which to make sense of the world.

Hornby High School has for 3 or 4 years planned to re-imagine the curriculum. We call it our 'connected curriculum' in which we literally connect ideas, and in which we create. And this isn't just a science and technology thing. Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication are all equally developed in the arts and social sciences. The catch phrase in some quarters is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), but I prefer the mnemonic STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Maths)

The old jobs are disappearing. We have to find new ways of creating value, and doing stuff the old way simply isn't going to be an option.

We are confronting the age of disruptive innovation. Let's get disrupting.

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