"Humans Need Not Apply" - Really?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 -- Stephanie Abbott

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. John Gould at the Edmentum Pennsylvania Roadshow. Given that I work for an educational software company, I do try to stay on top of the latest thinking in education. However, there are moments when I realize I’m just as behind the times as anyone else. And, this was certainly one of those times!

If you haven’t seen the “Humans Need Not Apply” video, there are folks who believe employment as we know it will be taken over by robots. We know that the mechanical horse ultimately replaced the animal. Then, computers as small as a pinhead appeared, processing information in a nanosecond. Now, the next generation of robots is competing with humans for jobs. To that point, these new robots offer employers a highly skilled, cost-effective workforce with the ability to learn skills quickly and perform repetitive tasks effectively and without the need for lunch breaks or benefits.

As Dr. Gould pointed out, humans are suddenly finding themselves unemployable through no fault of their own. Skills, previously revered, are now obsolete and/or not easily transferred into another industry. What does this situation have to do with education? Plenty…

In the past, education provided a surefire pathway to lifelong employment. Formerly, a high school diploma guaranteed a job and a retirement gold watch. Then, it was a college degree. A professional degree insured a position of respect. That’s not true these days. Many twenty- and thirty-somethings work through an undergraduate or graduate program only to discover that they can’t find a job that will support the repayment of substantial tuition debt.

Given this sobering picture, Dr. Gould suggested that educators on every level must redesign learning so that students develop high-level creative and innovation skills. To be successful after graduation, students must be able to use their imaginations to create something new that the world will find useful. Case in point are companies like Apple who develop products that we can’t imagine “needing.” Ten years ago, would you have foreseen storing thousands of songs in a device the size of a credit card?

Dr. Gould is a clinical professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, in the School of Education’s EdD program for Educational Leadership and Change. His students participate in a ten-week course concentrating on creative educational leadership. On the course website, the work of the teams is available for you to explore. Their projects focus on answering the fundamental question: how do we structure new learning environments that allow for the integration of learning activities that foster a sustainable future for all children?

On the site, there are inspiring and thought-provoking prototypes of new schools. Visitors are also able explore the design process, based upon Theory U. What do these designs look like? They integrate technology with learning seamlessly in order to provide students with a high level of personalization in their academic path. They utilize technology to bring learning outside of the classroom and into the community, pushing learners to develop creative problem-solving skills and connect their education to the real world. This is a significant shift from the current model, and therein lies the challenge for all educators. So that students are able to maintain a fulfilling life, can we let go of the old to embrace the new? Then, can we convince other stakeholders to do the same? Robots will never be able to replace human creativity, but we will need to use more and more of that creativity to modify our education system to effectively prepare students for our ever-increasing fast-paced, high-tech world.

At Edmentum, we feel that these are exciting ideas and changes. As a provider of online learning solutions, we are dedicated to developing innovative programs that leverage the power of technology to enrich the classroom environment. This is why we are currently expanding our library of Career Technical Education (CTE) courses, which are designed to help teach students the skills needed in today’s demanding and rapidly changing job market.

Want to learn more about how Edmentum can partner with your school or district to integrate technology into the classroom? Check out this resource on our current CTE course offerings.