How can schools prepare students for the future?
From AI software that can write essays better than humans, to dancing ABBA avatars on stage, it seems that the future is well and truly here. So how are schools managing to keep up? Daragh Comerford from Munich International School explains what schools need to do, and how MIS is keeping pace with technological change.
In December 2022, an amazing thing happened: a computer named ChatGPT loaded with new artificial intelligence software was able to write an essay for a university course. The essay was duly marked, and the professor could not distinguish that it was written by a piece of AI and awarded it an excellent grade.
The AI had reached the threshold of writing an essay that was as good as or significantly better than those written by the majority of students taking the course.
What does this mean for humans and education?
Whilst reading over the specifics of the study, I found myself wondering, what does a result like this mean? Of course, the first floating thought is this is the “end of writing” as we know it. It could be that humans’ jobs and roles in society are threatened by what algorithms and AI can do, and maybe it is the end of the extended essay!
Whilst elements of these arguments are true, I wonder if the “truth” is actually somewhere in between.
For years we have been told that the world that our students will inhabit will be different, that they will face challenges and offers of employment that are not in the current consciousness - and that “as a society” we therefore have to prepare our kids for that world, for their good and the good of society at large.
As I reflect on nearly 20 years of working in multiple aspects of technology, it is clear to me that this perceived future is upon us: holographic Swedish pop bands playing on stage, unmanned robots delivering takeout to students in Berkeley, AI writing prize-winning essays.
Much of what was predicted is in full swing and, whilst some are in denial, it is true; students are emphatic at accepting it and embracing it. Therefore, what is to come is unpredictable, hard to imagine and impossible to prepare literally for.
What can schools do to prepare students for the future?
That leads me to heavily reflect on what schools are doing - and need to do - to perform their societal obligation to prepare their students, gifted to their care, with the practical framework that allows them to reach into the future and be armed with the skills necessary to be a successful force for good.
What are these skills? Well, of course, basic intellect and knowledge is key - but the way in which this knowledge is expressed and extracted is, and should be, very different. Old methodologies of learning and assessing need to develop into new opportunities for collaboration, discussion, and critical thinking. Students need to be skilled self-managers who can communicate their ideas, their emotions and learn from one another’s differences and value that diversity.
One new methodology for teaching and learning could be the creation of new spaces in schools. Schools like MIS are using spaces designed by students, architects, teachers and industry experts to develop learning environments where students can build, practise and hone the skills they need - using modern technological resources alongside traditional books, student services, and deep thinking zones - so that when they leave school, they can be confident that they will succeed and the world’s trajectory will be offset a little more in the right direction.
When you pick up your news tomorrow morning, from your letterbox, front garden, TV, tablet, phone or laptop, seek articles that marvel at the new and the “future” that is already here, and wonder whether the learning that we see in schools and societies matches the skills that are going to be needed, as this technological revolution shows no signs of slowing.
All of these principles come together at Munich International School in the new Learning NeXus, a transformative, open learning space that brings together the library, modern technological resources, and all manner of student services. MIS is confident that it is helping to establish young adults full of “future-orientated” skills that will allow them to thrive. Join a virtual Open Day to find out more about the NeXUs and learning at MIS.
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