• Brent Kaneft

Challenge: Let Your Students Watch this 3-Minute Video, Then Observe Their Reactions

If you're curious whether or not your school is embracing a 21st-century mindset, let your students watch this video and then observe their response. "The Future of Work" is a promo video for Ted Dintersmith's new book, What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers across America.

What did they say? Are they scared? Are they excited?

If they're scared, that's OK, but it means you have some work to do. If they're scared, they probably feel hopeless (e.g. "Artificial Intelligence is too powerful. My job prospects are growing more scarce.") or helpless (e.g. "I don't know anything about all that stuff). If you're students are scared, you might need to reconsider how you're teaching them. You also might need to take a look at your school: Are you preparing students for the future? Their fear might suggest a disconnect between what you're asking them to do in the classroom and what they'll be asked to do in just a few years. For what it's worth, the students in my class who were scared are excellent students. They "do" school very well. Make of that what you will.

If students are excited, it's highly likely that you work at a school that is empathetic, innovative, future-oriented, and student-centered. Good! Keep doing what you do.

We showed this video during an assembly a few weeks ago, and it energized me. What a challenge! It forced me to ask, am I teaching in a way that requires students to compete against machine intelligence? Am I teaching in way that pits my career against machine intelligence? As Dintersmith reminds us, competing against machine intelligence is a losing battle.

Successful people in the future, according to Dintersmith, will leverage machine intelligence, not compete against it.

How do I use technology to my advantage? I want to show my students how to use digital tools to disseminate their art, to share their ideas and creations with the world. Digital tools tap into the human and help students engage with the world. Knowing how to blog, how to produce a podcast, or how to use social media to their advantage is not what I'd call innovative, nor are these activities necessarily disruptive (though I think they could be). Using new digital tools helps students develop a productive mindset about technology—"technological innovation gives me agency to create, to design, to build."

In Linchpin, Seth Godin argues,

"Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient [...] By definition, art is human. A machine can't create art, because the intent matters" (84).

That's what our students need to hear. It's the artists that will thrive in the future. And the new artist will leverage technology + their human qualities—empathy, generosity, compassion, courage—to make the world a better place, while also earning a living. "Art," as Godin defines it, is not just "painting or sculpture or songwriting," it's anything you do to provide an experience that changes people (84). The teacher can be an artist, as can the student.

So ask yourself,

Am I asking students to perform tasks that a cell phone can do quicker, easier, better?

How often do I ask students to apply the content we learn?

Do my students see themselves as consumers or creators, cogs or artists?

How do I help students develop confidence about their future?

How do I leverage machine intelligence to improve my teaching?

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