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The Future of Education

In just a few decades of Computer Science, we have gone from painfully slow machines the size of an apartment, to ultrafast devices we carry in our pockets every day: and we can already see the Next Big Thing – Wearable Computing – going mainstream in the next couple of years to actually deliver the long-sought promise of Immersive Virtual Reality.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil – currently Engineering Director at Google – popularized the term Singularity: which indicates a moment, in the Near Future, when Artificial Intelligence will outsmart Human Intelligence, or - more broadly, when breakthroughs in fields like Biotechnology, Nanotecnology or Neurotechnology - to name a few – could radically change our very nature of Human Beings: with applications like Life Extension, Body Enhancements or Brain-Computer Interfaces.

That is: Technology is accelerating at exponential rates, with extraordinary implications at many levels. The debate is no longer about if we will see such wonders, but when: many renowned experts agree on a timeframe between 2020 and 2045, and these rough estimations are possible because there are already significant forces at work. Big industry players, business startups, research institutes, are all pushing towards precise objectives, very often already at some prototype stage: self-driving cars, assistive robotics, holographic interfaces, artificial intelligence, quantum computers.

However, despite our terrific advancements in raw technology, we cannot speak of actual Progress for Humankind until Technology Innovation is matched by an equally outstanding Social Innovation: as a matter of fact, we already have all the means and the knowledge to solve the world’s most lingering issues like hunger, war or economy. This goal can only be achieved through a New Evolutionary Paradigm, to be bestowed on our Younger Generations in order to allow them to understand, create, and experience a better future, characterized by a Distributed Wealth and Quality of Life for every human being.

That’s why Innovation in Learning is not only a matter of finding new ways to stimulate students in schools: it’s about building an entirely new conceptual framework for the evolution of our species, where creativity, ingenuity and technology will help us to transcend our cultural and structural limitations.

The only problem is, our school systems are still following a pedagogical model based on principles and needs typical of the Industrial Age - acritical retention of notions, punishment of errors, linearity in the educational path – often resulting in appalling lessons entirely disconnected from the reality of the kids. The Digital Natives have internet, gaming consoles, smartphones: and they could never be attracted by textbooks or blackboards. On the contrary, these kids should be looking forward to going to school: knowing they will have a compelling and engaging learning experience, which will endure throughout their personal development, as they grow.

Of course, it’s not just a matter of cool gadgets: In the last twenty years, thanks to the invention of the functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Neurosciences have made huge leaps forward in understanding how our brain learns and processes new information; and it seems the most natural step to integrate such a bold ‘Body of Knowledge’ in school teaching. Moreover, during the same period, new didactic methodologies have been experimented with, all over the world (Experiential Learning, Game-Based Learning, Expeditionary Learning, Interactive Storytelling, Immersive Learning…), also taking into account other meaningful factors – like Social and Emotional Intelligence - delivering great practical results. In Europe such an example could be Finland, where kids reach the top international scores while being the students with the fewest number of class exams on the planet!

Essentially, a consistent reform of Public Education is an issue shared by all Nations of all Continents: and it would be very interesting to launch an invitation - and a challenge – to qualified subjects and institutes, and join forces in order to create a shared proposal about a New Pedagogy for the XXIst Century, based on the elements mentioned in this article: Neurosciences, Immersive Technologies, New Teaching Methodologies and a worldwide tour to survey and study the best excellences. The ultimate purpose would be to bring the resulting document to the attention of the European Parliament, and ask for a TransNational Task Force for the promotion and implementation of innovative standards, in order to empower our Younger Generations with the critical tools and the necessary Knowledge in order to rethink our Present and reshape their Future.


Domenico Zungri  is an Experience Designer, specialized in the development of Immersive Simulations for educational, professional, and entertainment purposes. He earned a Master’s Degree in Digital Entertainment at the Virtual Reality & MultiMedia Park of Turin, worked as a Game Designer for Milestone srl in Milan, and specialized in Theme Park & Attraction Design with Alcorn McBrIde inc. In 2011 at the International Social Innovation Competition, he was awarded for a project about engaging ‘at risk’ and dropout kids through Interactive Technologies.

Domenico is the founder of Future Labs: a project of Innovation Park dedicated to the Research, Development and Training on Immersive and Emergent Technologies. During his free time, he practices his passions for touristic aviation and electronic music, whilst working on his pet-project “HoloQuest”: an Holistic, Evolutionary Immersive Experience, for Humankind’s Next Evolutionary Leap.

domenicozungri.com

d.zungri@futurelabs.it


RESOURCES:

Documentaries on Education
Innovation in Education
Emerging Technologies
Future Scenarios
TED Talks
21 Oct 2013