• Sarah Luiz

The Creative Learning Revolution

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Education must adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Technology is transforming how we live, work, play, and think. And it’s happening more quickly, and on a larger scale, than at any point in human history…

Education needs to equip today’s people with the skills to thrive in tomorrow’s world.

Within just a few years, developments in technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, and 3D printing will transform most occupations.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Survey, “a wide range of occupations will require a higher degree of cognitive abilities — such as creativity, logical reasoning and problem sensitivity — as part of their core skill set. More than half of these do not yet do so today, or only to a much smaller extent”

“Half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055.” This is a very different world to the one our schools and universities were designed to serve.


Formal education came into being around the time of the first Industrial Revolution, and early schools were less about improving children’s minds than producing a punctual, obedient workforce for the new factories. As a conveyor belt for sorting, training and disciplining future workers, they were a kind of factory themselves.

“If you look at early images of the factory and early images of the schoolroom, there’s not a lot of difference,” says sociologist and education specialist John Holm at SocioDesign in Australia. “The children are in rows, they’re facing front and they’re looking unhappy.

Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed … to pre-adapt children for a new world — a world of repetitive indoor toil, smoke, noise, machines, crowded living conditions, collective discipline, a world in which time was to be regulated not by the cycle of the sun and moon, but by the factory whistle and the clock” Excerpt from ‘Future Shock’ by Alvin Toffler

In many respects, things have changed little. In today’s classrooms and lecture theatres, students are still expected to sit in rows, listening to the teacher.

We need to reshape learning for the 21st century. How do you teach a digital native when they can just Google it?

“Now that information is widely available, we see the student taking an increasing amount of ownership and guiding their own learning, with the teacher providing mentorship and context along the way” Jason Lembke, DLR Group

With a world of readily searchable knowledge at our fingertips, we don’t need to memorise facts any more. In fact, many things we traditionally learned at school might start to feel a little pointless in the digital age: handwriting, the rules of spelling and grammar, foreign languages …

But we will need new skills to help us manage the formidable tools at our disposal. We need to know how to interpret search results, critically assess the quality and veracity of information and make ethical judgements about how to use it … and we’ll need to think creatively to come up with solutions to increasingly complex global problems.

In the future, work will be structured around projects, not processes. That’s an important trend in education too.

“Active” or “problem-based” learning seeks to engage students’ natural curiosity, rather than simply presenting them with information. “That’s the big shift in the way we’re teaching: we’re starting to mix things up,” says John Holm at SocioDesign. “Instead of just saying ‘here’s stuff to remember’, it says ‘here’s a problem to solve’ and the students get involved in that problem.”

“When my children decide they’re interested in something, I’m amazed at how much relatively unstructured information they can hold. They both went crazy for Pokémon Go and they could tell you the properties of 150 little creatures. That’s because they’re motivated. That’s where we’re getting to as educators. We know that if we mix different ways of engaging with information, we get a better learning outcome. We also recognise that learning is a social process and that learning with others seems to have better outcomes.”

That means blurring traditional curriculum boundaries. Instead of splitting learning into different subjects, topics are taught in a more holistic, real-world way — so a lesson on the Vikings might include learning about history or geography, writing stories or working in a group to design and build a boat. This is “phenomenon-based learning”. It emphasises skills such as communication, creativity and critical thinking, and better prepares students to apply their knowledge in the 21st-century workplace.

It’s big in Finland. Long recognized as having one of the world’s most successful education models, Finland is adopting phenomenon-based learning for an increasing proportion of teaching time. Under its National Curriculum Framework 2016, students will participate in at least one interdisciplinary module each year — which they will help to plan and assess themselves.

In this new world, the teacher plays a very different role. Today’s students are the first generation to have grown up with the internet, and the first to be educated by it. For both students and teachers, this new learning journey is uncharted territory. So how can the teacher lead?

Educationalist Erica McWilliam has characterised a shift from the teacher as the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side” to the “meddler in the middle”. The meddler in the middle learns alongside students, challenging them to expand their horizons.

SOURCE: The Possible


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