Thoughts On Education For 2021

2020 brought drastic changes to all fields of life, including education, due to the global pandemics and its repercussions on economics. Besides, it was the era when digital trends in educational technology were skyrocketing. 2021 is going to be the year full of innovations in the way we learn.

Although E-learning trend in education has already gained popularity, it is going to be more important for the students as of 2021 because people will still fear increased health risks in physical interactions as a result of pandemic outbreak 2020, all while online learning technology is growing up at an incredible pace. But there are more things coming up in education in 2021. These are artificial intelligence, virtual reality learning, gamification, 5G and mobile first learning. The artificial intelligence helps educators to be more knowledge-resourceful, it supports teachers to spot learning gaps and incapacities easier, it is quicker and maybe the most important of all – it lets learners get more personalised content in more understandable form. Virtual reality can be great and engaging tool in education as it gives the students possibility to visualise places and things which are not accessible in the conventional study environment. The online gamification has additional features, advanced tools, and multiple options which are unavailable in classroom. 5G supports learning process by incredible speed and M-learning will allow students to connect from anywhere, anytime with just a couple of clicks.

Professor dr. Dewayne Thompson said that the children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chat in front of company, gobble up food at the table, and tyrannize their teachers.

I am not sure to what extent I agree with the above mentioned, but the world has definitely changed and children have changed, too. Therefore, it is nonsense to approach them with old tools and way of teaching. And that is exactly what is happening in the school around the globe – 20th century teachers teach 21st century kids with 19th century curriculum topics.

Yes, definitely there are many advantages of technologically revolutionised approach to education and yes, 21st lecturers should use every possible advanced, engaging, and tech-based tool to help our student become successful. But, of course, there are some downsides of that story, too.

 “The devices they hold in their hands have both extended their childhoods and isolated them from true human interaction. As a result, they are both the physically safest generation and the most mentally fragile.” (Twenge, 2017). Mrs. Nancy Koehn says that we live in an era largely defined by widespread fear. A great deal of collective anxiety is held in place by hyperconnectivity. Furthermore, UNICEF study showed children with less than two hours of connectivity (TV or online) outperform those who spend more time. JAMA reports a connection between device usage and ADHD. Every day long hour connection creates constant social comparison, thus making people lonelier and afraid of social rejection: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

We cannot ignore the fact that statistics show that about 10%-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders; 91% of Gen Z between 18 & 21 say they have experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom due to stress in the past month

compared to 74% of adults overall. They are experiencing increased anxiety and lower self-esteem. USA numbers show that students visiting counselling centres for mental health issues increased by 30%, while enrolment increased 6% (2009-2015), 40% of students felt depressed in last 12 months, 61% felt overwhelming anxiety and 10% of them seriously considered suicide. University of Iowa even indicates mental health is the number one reason students leave school. Those numbers really hurt on many levels.

Beside school systems and curricula, part of issues originates at home. Childhood is extended and later, youth postpones adult activities (Twenge 2017), parents are solving all of kids problems, so failure becomes shattering, and coping skills as well as relational and emotional competence decrease and young people have lack of resilience.

Response is always in understanding and accepting in order to be able to drive change.

Gen Z thinks learning is less important than the grade and getting a job is more important than getting an education. They have less experience reading lengthy pieces, have reduced attention span, have fear saying the wrong thing, or they have not formed solid opinions.

So, what we can and should do?

We should change the system and to have holistic approach to it. It is important that students feel cared for, feel valued and happy but also to develop life skills and gain knowledge. Providing relevant content, up-to-date tools, engaging lecturers who are able to create an environment for physical and emotional well-being, as well as offer personal support network for personal and career development and orientation will be the key, especially on a college level.

We can help lecturers in their transformation and constant education, so they can feel comfortable using variety of pedagogical tools, teach them to use storytelling and to approach learning holistically by engaging students’ emotions; so they know how to involve students in comprehensive, critical thinking process and to use cognitive and emotional learning to increase outcomes.

And that is something WIMCI and its Department of Education will promote and support through our programmes and network.