Session 1 Pre Reading Aoun

Aoun, J. 2017. A Learning Model for the Future. In Higher education in the age of artificial intelligence. MIT Press. pp45-75.

I found this a relatively easy piece of reading, some of which I found I agreed with, this piece was to the point and informative. My interest was attracted immediately where the author began talking about the job market. It is my belief (not always shared) the a main objective of undergraduate study is to improve an individual’s chances of securing a step on the ladder of a career that appeals to them.

As a relatively recent recruit to HE I am interested in the link between the progressive state of the macro environment and how we prepare our students to survive ‘out there’. I shared the view that we just can’t imagine the future; when the United Kingdom was full of textile mills I am sure the workers could not imagine a world where machinery made and controlled clothing manufacture, sometimes remotely from a different country.

I found parts slightly idealistic, “much of the world remains terra incognita. There is more to find….”. This is maybe true for some industries but in fashion much of the world has already been exploited for textile manufacture. Although this was brought up again later in the article when by a quote from the World Economic Forum “65% of children entering primary school will eventually work in jobs that do not yet exist”. Highlighting that we do not always know what the future will hold.

The section on divergent thinking struck a chord with my own current experience. I teach across all year groups (1-3), the final years being by far the most engaged. Whether this is simply down to the cohort or more about the age I am not sure but two thirds of my week is spent addressing polite but blank faces who may or may not be absorbing what I am saying and the other third going into great detail and being lead off at tangents by my challenging yet engaged final years. Maybe they have “grown into their creativity” (Aoun,2017). I was also able to draw similar parallels from my experience of the current state secondary education curriculum and how it teaches children prior to undergraduate study. The difference being that they are largely taught to describe what they have learnt in compulsory education rather than thinking about the critical evaluation of what they have understood.

Although there was lots of interesting content some of the points made were backward-looking and out of date, for example, all UK school children are taught some element of coding already and it is part of the compulsory curriculum. The author also spent a great deal amount of time talking about the complexity of robots, much of which is actually already happening.

Fear of failure

One of my fellow PGCerters wrote about this article: The goal is to transform the temporary student into a lifelong learner.. who is mentally flexible and is able to utilise true critical thinking.” But I wonder if this is the goal of the students and suspect their own success criteria may lie with satisfying parents expectations and getting a qualification (any qualification) which makes their route to employment a safer option. They struggle to link this with what my colleague is saying. So I wonder if these pathways actually cross or if indeed we are able as lecturers to pull them closer together. They went on to say; “Critical thinking must be understood to be inherently subjective.” This is a great point and one that the students I teach seem to struggle with most. The constant fear of failure exhibited by students is deep rooted and difficult to break in world where the expectation is to succeed is a given rather than as a result of hard work and time spent.

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