Posted by: crudbasher | February 24, 2015

Education Prognostications

When I was a kid, I built Lego quite a bit. As I recall, I stopped when I was about 15. Over the years growing up I think I built about everything you could think of. Lego is really useful to child development because it requires problem solving, resource management, visualization, structural analysis, and spacial measurements to name a few skills. I am firmly convinced that my abilities in writing software were developed first with building Lego.

These skills also help when analyzing new technologies. This, by the way is really hard to do. For example, here is an article in the New York Times from 30 years ago.

For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few.

The limitations come from what people actually do with computers, as opposed to what the marketers expect them to do. On the whole, people don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.

There are two major reasons people get predictions like this wrong. First, we are linear thinkers in an exponentially changing world. This means we take what we see around us and then just think about future versions. Consider Star Trek in the late 1960s. They had starships, transporters and aliens and yet they had very little in the way of computers. Today, we all walk around with computers with access to vast amounts of information.

The second reason future predictions are wrong is the predictor has a built in bias towards a certain vision of the future. Note in the excerpt above the line “they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper”. This is coming from a newspaper writer. This person has a blind spot because they can’t imagine a future where they aren’t a part of it. Nobody wants to imagine becoming obsolete or being replaced so we bend the future to fit around ourselves.

When I read predictions about the future of education, I see the vast majority of them still have kids in classrooms, grouped by age, being lead by a teacher. I believe in order to accurately predict the future in any endeavor, you have to discard all preconceptions and faithfully extrapolate current trends, no matter where they lead. This is what I try to do.

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