The Bots are Coming! Better Re-think My Lesson Plans

» 17 August 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Strategies » 3 Comments

S.H_Horikawa_–_Star_Strider_Robot_Close_Up

Here’s a suggestion for your back-to-school faculty meeting - take 15 minutes to watch Humans Need Not Apply by CGP Grey. Then have a discussion on it’s implications for your students and (your curriculum). Talking about robot invasions is way more fun than updates on new state tests.

The video’s thesis is simple - robots are coming for our jobs. Actually, they have already taken many of them. And it’s not just low-skilled labor they're taking over.

… white-collar work is no safe haven either. If your job is sitting in front of a screen and typing and clicking -- like maybe you're supposed to be doing right now -- the bots are coming for you too, buddy.

I’ll bet that accurately filling out a worksheet won’t be a valued bot-competitive skill.

Are the professions safe from bots? Not exactly. The video makes the case for bots replacing significant aspects of legal, medical and even creative work. (And I’d add teachers to that list.)

It begs the question - what skills should we be teaching to students who will have to compete against the bots for employment? I don’t think there are any easy answers to that question. But I’ll bet that accurately filling out a worksheet won’t be a valued bot-competitive skill.

As the video concludes:

We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different.

Horses aren't unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There's little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own. …

This video isn't about how automation is bad -- rather that automation is inevitable. It's a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable -- through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.

For full text of the video click here.

Image credit: S.H Horikawa – Star Strider Robot
By D J Shin (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

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Why Do Teachers Ask Questions They Know the Answers To?

» 06 February 2013 » In Ed Tech, Strategies, Students, Teachers » 6 Comments

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Here’s a TEDx video – The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice – that showcases the power of a PBL / design-based approach to learning. While you watch it, try to think of a meaningful career that looks like filling out a worksheet.

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14 Provocative Questions for the Faculty

» 25 July 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Reflection, Teachers » 3 Comments

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It’s back to school time. Get ready for that opening day faculty meeting where you sit and listen, while wishing you could be getting some actual work done in your classroom. Here’s few disruptive questions you could pose to subvert the status quo in your school. Let’s begin with who’s learning, who’s not, and what are we doing about it?

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Excellent Sheep and Our Crisis of Leadership

» 21 February 2012 » In Commentary, Leadership, Reflection, Students » 3 Comments

Excellent sheep featured

Test prep courses, admissions coaches, private tutors. … So what I saw around me were great kids who had been trained to be world-class hoop jumpers. …They were, as one of them put it herself, “excellent sheep.”

We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place.

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Testing or Teachable Moments?

» 30 November 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Teachers » No Comments

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Several years ago, after I brought in tulips from my garden, my fifth-grade students wanted to plant their own. I learned that few students in my school’s high-poverty community had ever planted anything, so we planted tulips (not in the curriculum). In the process, one student found part of a rusted horseshoe, so we studied the history of the neighborhood (not in the curriculum), discovering that a farm had existed there 90 years earlier. Then, because of the proliferation of questions about the artifacts we’d unearthed, we studied archaeology (not in the curriculum). With the new push for common core standards nationwide, perhaps no student in any fifth grade in the United States will plant tulips, explore the history of his or her neighborhood or learn about archaeology ever again.

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Why Johnny Can’t Search – a Response

» 23 October 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Literacy, Students » 21 Comments

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Clive Thompson wonders “Why Johnny Can’t Search” (Wired Magazine Nov, 2011). I note that schools contribute to the problem in two ways. In an effort to protect students from offensive online content many schools respond by sequestering students behind an information firewall. That sets Johnny up to fail in our “wild west” of information. Every day he walks into a sanitized information landscape with the expectation that anything he finds behind the school firewall is acceptable.

Schools inhibit the development of critical evaluation skills in another way – the relentless (test prep) focus on mastery of facts. Johnny can assess the validity of information because he’s awash in a sea of text without context. Critically evaluating sources requires a deeper understanding of author and purpose. That’s developed with an inquiry-based approach to learning. No time for that – we have to “cover” content for the test. In the relentless march to the exam, Johnny gets well acclimated to quickly stuffing his head with facts. No wonder he’s willing to take up Google on the bet that “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

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Big Ideas and the Relevant Classroom

» 14 August 2011 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's, Students » No Comments

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When it came to time to study the debate over the ratification of the constitution, my students didn’t have to ask the question – “why do we need to study this?” They realized that they were looking at “Round 1″ of an ongoing debate over how strong the central government should be.

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Teachers, Have the Courage to be Less Helpful

» 19 July 2011 » In Commentary, Strategies, Teachers » 14 Comments

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Most of our students get a steady diet of force-fed information and test taking strategies. We’re giving a generation of kids practice for predictable, routine procedures. Here’s thoughts on how you can begin to “be less helpful” and give students practice in “figuring it out” for themselves. That’s where the real learning will take place.

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Save Our Schools March -You Can Make a Difference

» 07 May 2011 » In Commentary, Events, Teachers » 2 Comments

save-our-school-march-small

A march for: Equitable funding for all public school communities. An end to high stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation. Curriculum developed for and by local school communities. Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies

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Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Top Down or Bottom Up?

» 14 March 2011 » In Commentary, Web 2.0 » 3 Comments

Corporate music, publishing and film were transformed from below. Do we expect education to be spared the forces of the digital revolution? Unlike the vanishing local newspaper, schools won’t disappear entirely. After all, someone has to watch the kids. While it may be difficult to replace the custodial function of schools, I suspect that education’s “top-down” approach will eventually be breached. Or perhaps life will just become an “open book test” and we’ll no longer notice how our information moves through it.

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