Future Smarts: Education for the 21st Century

Sydney Opera House: Vivid

I went to this event last night as part of Vivid Creative Sydney (#VCS). With me were: Jemima McDonald (change agent, @jemimaeve special subject: Shark Island), Sophie McDonald (Jemima’s mother, @misssophiemac special subject: workplace disruption) and Dr Belinda Tiffen (intellectual, @bella1609 special subject: big words). I was invited to tag along because they felt sorry for me and because they thoight it would be good for me to hang around with some smart people.

It was an after hours event so in the spirit of “life-long learning” (the subject of one of the questions asked of the panel) we will all be submitting forms for overtime, time-in-lieu and for exposure to hazardous risks (ideas coming from outside the library and university world).
I was not expecting to get much from this event and had already thought up an excuse to leave early, but I was surprised by how stimulating some of the plainly-spoken issues raised by the panel were. We couldn’t Tweet live because inside the Playhouse there was hardly any mobile phone coverage, so I took a few notes and they form the basis of this post.
After the moderator finished talking about himself the first panelist Raju Varanasi told us about what is currently happening in NSW schools. It was good to hear and see him illustrate co-creation, fun, interactive game-based learning, the use of multimedia, collaboration and cross-curricular learning. He recognised the enormous challenge in keeping teachers up to date with technology, but I don’t think we had the time to fully explore any real answers.
Philip Cronin from Intel talked about the fast pace of change and showed an interesting Wordle about what mattered in education (now) in which music and video were writ large. I could see “mobile”, but books and text were not readily evident. As I’ve said before most libraries are still locked into a text-based universe and that along with their failure to embrace technological change is probably why many are now under threat. Philip stressed the importance and growing development of connections.

Christopher Nicholls the founder of Sistema Australia was up next and spoke of the power of unlocking imagination through culture and technology. His initiative with Sistema brings to Australia a program started in Venezuela that transforms the learning and development of disadvantaged students through the power of music. He says it develops their ability to imagine and that is lacking in our current learning structures, possibly because of too many boundaries, rules, measures that do not value creativity and competition between institutions.

Finally Sharon Clerke from the Foundation for Young Australians/NAB Schools First program spoke of the benefits of deeper community involvement and partnerships in school education programs.

The discussions after their short presentations stressed the importance of social connections, sharing and a future in which personal and learning connections extend well beyond physical and institutional boundaries. The panelists saw great benefit in immersive sharing and the use of social capital if it is accessible as well as blurred boundaries between school, community, home and work. There was some talk about performance measurement and assessment in schools and how that fails to properly recognise the humanities and creative skills.

When asked to quickly sum up their key points for the future these were their final messages:

  • We must unpack all of our current assumptions about education;
  • We should embrace change now because it is only going to become more rapid;
  • We must understand our humanity; and
  • We need to increase our openness to community & our willingness to share.

For me I was reminded of the power and importance of connections and community and the importance of altruism for the future. I think that if these key points are ignored institutions will be locked into a world of isolation, defending their own selfishness.


  1. jemima mcdonald

    nice summary prof. thanks for distilling it so very well. i thought about the term co-creation which is bandied around a lot, am still trying to figure out how to apply it more fully to info lit if we can. adios jemima mcdonald whose specialty is shark island, not sure about change agent, perhaps I should change my agent?

  2. Ashley England

    Awesome! Particularly like that we have to'understand our humanity'@Jem – I've been pondering co-creation with IL and other things about the Library as well. Particularly outside classroom activities. Bella and I did some reading for RAILS talking about Librarians as facilitators – like what Helen is doing with Read@UTs. Idea is that the learning is self-directed by the student. I guess its not exactly co-creation.

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