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  • Diahann Hughes Hawkins

Foundations of 21st Century Learning

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Image by Annie Spratt from Unsplash

Humans are different from AI in that we have the ability to process a range of emotions with input from previous life experiences to guide our actions as we physically impact the world around us. An educated human in its essence could be defined as an individual who possesses an intelligent ability to interpret information, and apply it to real world situations. Education that merely disseminates facts & figures is literally a waste of mental energy, because without a framework for understanding why learning any information is important, this type of knowledge transfer risks being lost in short-term memory.

Curriculums of the 21st century need to be updated and designed with a particular outcome in mind, rather than a ‘knowledge dump’ that can be replicated by any Google search. If educational resources are directly linked to a greater purpose for learning or specific problem which needs to be solved, then any Learner has a powerful incentive to absorb data, process it and weld it into something deemed useful, much like a stone tool that was fashioned by our ancient ancestors. In that definition, education becomes more of a tool rather than an end in itself. The successfully educated person is one who knows how to use any information that they have acquired over their lifetime and use that knowledge as a tool to effectively interact with the world around them. In other words they know not only how, but when to use that tool.

What is the point of an education if it cannot be used to affect influence and desired change on the Learner’s environment? Knowledge is best disseminated through a cultural framework, where it gives some underlying meaning to information when presenting it to young minds. And without a foundation built on global ethics and morality, we risk creating a world that builds on a self-perpetuating treadmill of ‘knowledge for the sake of knowledge’, that is divorced from any real world understandings and lacks consideration of the the natural world that we rely upon.

That’s why educators urgently need to incorporate shared cultural values about a just society and our role as custodians for our planet into curriculums, much like an underlying ‘algorithm’ coded into an AI system. If these core deficiencies in how we are educating our young become embedded into the foundation of formalised education, then we risk multiplying our collective moral vacuum with the artificially intelligent systems we create.

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