Learning how to live with technology
Ger Graus is worried about technology – equality of access, the purposes to which it is put and how to live with it, not for it. Somehow, he’s still excited!
Imogen’s dad is not worried
My youngest child, my youngest daughter, is called Imogen, which makes me Imogen’s dad. Imogen is 16, she is at school as we speak, and she is lucky. She has me as a dad to start with (!) She also has everything she wants, or so I think. She is clever, considerate, funny and a teenager. I am very proud of her. Imogen is of the iPhone & iPad generation. She is very IT savvy and very IT confident. Imogen will be more than fine, whatever the world throws at her. I’m not worried.
Tom and Anna are my two other children, Imogen’s brother and sister. Both relatively fresh out of university and both now happily and successfully finding their way around the world of work. I am equally very proud of them and equally not really worried. Tom and Anna are of the pre-iPhone and iPad generation. They are IT savvy-ish and probably less IT confident than Imogen. Tom and Anna will of course also be fine, but may have to somehow think to ‘plan’ a little occasional learning time to remain savvy-ish and become more IT confident. Eight years is a lot of age difference these days – it’s almost a generation gap.
But he does still worry
I do worry about many other children though; the have-nots as opposed to the haves, the can-nots as opposed to the cans. I worry not about their ability to manage change, to utilise AI, VR, AR, any other abbreviation or even coding, or to make the most of and enjoy technology – I worry that that gap is widening. I worry about the lack of technology infrastructure access – the COVID-19 pandemic has shone an ugly light on this. I worry that it will take too long to see free internet access as a human right, like access to clean water. I worry that governments cannot see the wood for the trees. It will fall upon all of us to drive this solution. “Every child is everyone’s responsibility”, to quote my favourite headteacher.
Will ‘tech’ make life better?
IT, technology, AI, VR, AR were all meant to make the world better, life easier – they haven’t, as yet at least. We’re busier, more connected, 24/7, yet seem at times lost for purpose. We need to learn how to live with and not live for technology.
How will it serve us? Will we have a better distribution of wealth? Will we have four day working weeks? Will we know more? And will we know better? Will we know how to deploy ourselves, what to do with our time? Will we know how to be kind? Will we use technology to be better? Will we be globally responsible citizens, looking after each other? Will we learn to see through lies, deceit, and fake news, and value the truth? Will technology make us more democratic? In tomorrow’s world, technology, AI, VR, AR, whatever, isn’t about work; it is about lives, about making our children live better.
Don’t get me wrong
I am incredibly excited about technology, about its potential, about AI, VR, AR, about coding, about a better world created not by us, but by our children. I am excited about playing my small part in making this happen. I love the thought that children everywhere, through technology and access will love to learn, with purpose, a sense of pride and joy, together.
We all have our part to play in this: individuals, schools, families, communities, business and charity, governments, organisations such as the brilliant Twin Science, in partnership with experience-based learning providers such as, for example, KidZania, and of course the children themselves. Our aim should not be the mastering of technology per se but enabling our children to write their own narrative of the possible utilising technology and all its wonders. Look at Hello Genius, at Kabuni, at the multitude of brilliant start-up, all genuinely aiming to do the right thing, to use technology for good. Children can only aspire to what they know exists and it is our duty to twitch curtains, open windows, and doors, widen horizons and point towards the path that leads from inspiration to aspiration.
Being more than a school
We need a rethink of our schooling, including environments, the curriculum, school days and holidays, who are our teachers, and who can be educators. We need to trust and have confidence in the education professions, and like we use ‘Dr’ for doctors, we should honour our teachers with ‘Tr’. A clearer connect between content, in- and out-of-school learning, teaching, online, offline and experiences is required. Schools need to be more than schools – “més que una escola”, the rest of the world needs to be the classroom and that of course includes the so-called virtual world. The environment is the third teacher.
And finally, to quote my good friend Professor Carla Rinaldi, President of the Fondazione Reggio Children: “We must trust the children, as much as they trust us!”
Prof Dr Ger Graus OBE was the first Global Director of Education for KidZania, founding CEO of the Children’s University and a Visiting Professor at the National Research University, Higher School of Economics Institute of Education, Moscow. More importantly, he is also a Dad of three, a Dog-Walker of two, and a Husband of one