Humanics and Super Humanics
As educators what is our primary task? Is it to give our students the skills they will need to contribute meaningfully to whatever walk of life they choose when they leave school? Mike Izzard asks if we know what those ‘walks of life’ are.
We know what skills will be needed. We know this because we have curriculum writers that give us the material to use in our teaching. We trust them to be right.
But what happens if we don’t know what sort of world our students will be entering when they leave school? What happens if that certainty disappears?
We need a crystal ball. Can one say, with any certainty, what the world will be like in 10, 15, 20 years? Can one say that, in this age of technology, machines and artificial intelligence, our current curricula will be relevant?
Mark Cuban, American billion investor, makes these predictions.
“Work is being automated. Employment is being ‘disrupted’. Changes that took 20 years to happen now take 5 or even less”. Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba told us at the recent DAVOS conference, that “if we are still teaching what we are now in 30 years time, our world will be in serious trouble”. (Jack Ma, DAVOS 2018)
Learning how to design, make and use machines has been the goal of education since the industrial revolution. We are now participating in a ‘technology’ revolution that is changing the way we work, our social structures and economies at a rapid rate. Knowing how to make machines is no longer to be the ‘unique’ goal of education.
The question could be why do we need this machine or maybe, how do I work with this machine? AI is taking over significant portions of our lives. A real change in how we perceive our role in life is needed, including how we relate to these ‘self operating’ machines.
The skills we will increasingly need are not so much the ‘hard skills’ needed for machine making, but the ‘soft skills’ of developing relationships – and not just with other humans, but with machines themselves.
My contention is that the skills that students will need to develop a lot more are: empathy, respect, mental elasticity, flexibility, and creativity to build the positive connections required to make the world work. We only need to look at the world today to see just how that ‘loss of direction’ is changing attitudes and actions in the behavior of people including students.
Humanics is a subject with a long academic history, and concerns the study of human nature or human affairs. While such investigation has value, its purpose needs to shift from observing humanity to guiding humanity. I would therefore like to suggest a new form of Humanics and call it ‘Super Humanics’. Super Humanics would act as a guide for action based on a reasoned perception and accommodation of the future. To do this we need a new learning model and we need to ‘institutionalize’ it. It needs to be embedded in our educational practice to make it happen, not just perceived as a worthy ‘add-on’.
In that sense, we need to relieve teachers of the responsibility for finding ways to make it happen in their classroom. We need to make it the responsibility of the educational institution; the school; itself. In identifying a learning model we must address what domains and literacies are required and provide the tools to make them happen. Robert Aoun in his book Robot-Proof talks about how this might work at tertiary levels of education but we need to provide for school level students and give them the skills required for further education at college and university.
The cover notes of Aoun’s book sum up his objectives:
‘In Robot-Proof, Northeastern University president Joseph Aoun proposes a way to educate the next generation of college students to invent, to create, and to discover―to fill needs in society that even the most sophisticated artificial intelligence agent cannot.’
‘The only certainty about the future is change. Higher education based on the new literacies of humanics can equip students for living and working through change.’ – Click on the book cover to follow the link to Amazon.
A new model for learning
To this end we propose our ‘Super Humanics’ learning model. Aside from the traditional literacies we propose identifying and classifying three others: Data Literacy, Technological Literacy and Human Literacy. These literacies would operate over the following skills domains: Systems Thinking, Entrepreneurship, Cultural Agility, and Critical Thinking.
Within this model we propose the development of tools that become incorporated in institutional practice, curriculum delivery and recognized student behaviors. The possibilities are vast.
To accomplish this requires a paradigm shift in the attitude schools take towards education. Of course the traditional literacies are needed. They provide the ‘hard skills’. But the way they are used will become tempered by the incorporation of the ‘soft skills’ embedded in school practice. Right now, ‘Super Humanics’ is developing, among other things, a ‘Suitcase’ that addresses the human literacy of ‘Intercultural Awareness’. This addresses the domains of Cultural agility and Systems thinking, both necessary to build the skills of empathy, flexibility and respect and to make connections between people.
Addressing technological literacy and embedding it in curriculum, is the modern version of the “Tinker Cart’. An intelligent mobile technology center that can travel the school providing much needed curriculum opportunities to develop mental elasticity and creativity through the domains of entrepreneurship, systems thinking and critical thinking by addressing technological and data literacy. This is the future, one in which our relationships are determined by our empathy for others. When you know their story, supporting them becomes much easier.
‘Super Humanics’ can ensure that happens. It also addresses a need that could easily arise in future societies. The development of soft skills will be needed to fill a vacuum created by having the need to design and make machines diminished in importance by the development of AI. These ‘soft skills’ are not so soft when it comes to how they are used.
They are going to provide the basis for social power and ‘With power comes responsibility. With great power comes great responsibilities’. This is the need that Super Humanics addresses.
Mike Izzard (Founder and CEO of Super Humanics)
Mike has taught Art, Art History, English, Computing, Technology and Design. After being trained and teaching for twenty-two years in New Zealand, he taught in China, Hong Kong and Japan. Author, keynote presenter and curriculum writer, he has been an IB DP Visual Art examiner and MYP Arts moderator. He has run his own design and publishing business and has consulted with schools and Government Education Departments in Hong Kong, China and New Zealand.
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Feature Image: Pixabay