“We know that technology is advancing rapidly, but the development of people and social systems is slower. How can we act wisely in the midst of this technological transition?”
Jari Kaivo-oja 13.10.2012

What is the aim of the change?

Learning will be social in the future

Competence requirements are changing at an accelerating pace. The problems we face are increasingly complex and multidisciplinary. Learning between cultures and generations requires that people can flexibly exploit each others’ intellectual and cultural resources. Although Finland’s school system is of international top quality, we are not immune to change. The requirements of working life are also changing and developing. On a global scale, the talking points are future skills and competencies (21st Century Skills), including creative problem-solving, emotional, cooperative and communication skills, and the ability to continuously deploy new tools for thinking and communication.

Intelligence is no longer vested in the minds of people, or even in social networks. Instead, people are expanding and exceeding the limits of biology, while using increasingly complex technological tools to do so. Technology has become integral to everyday life and part of information practices and the operating culture.

Feelings and social relationships forms of cerebral development

Recent brain research indicates that the human brain is a super-modifiable system, influenced, for instance, by the tools one uses and social networks – even virtual communities. In addition, the areas of the brain related to emotions and motor functions are key in terms of the human memory and learning. Driving a car or playing a musical instrument modifies the brain and changes its functions. In addition, new functions and areas of the brain related to interaction have been discovered. In many respects, these so-called mirror cells enable people to mirror and predict each others’ intentions and activities. Human beings are intensely emotion-oriented and social creatures. Learning is not just about saving information, but about continuously shaping and modifying thinking and the brain. People may also suffer from various disturbances in brain functions and learning difficulties that require rehabilitation. Special needs education is of a high standard in Finland and, particularly in the future, we will be able to provide people with more help in this area.

Information practices at school fit for digital natives

Researchers have found that young people born after the 1980s can no longer conceive of a world without the Internet and mobile devices. These are integral to their daily social and intellectual practices. People of this generation are known as digital natives. According to OECD surveys, in 2010, 95 per cent of Finnish children used digital technology in their free time, mainly for entertainment purposes. Only 35 per cent used it at school to assist in their studies. This reveals the huge gap that has emerged between young people’s information practices and those of schools. In fact, it has been found that Finnish pupils have problems with motivation at school in particular. Researchers are currently examining whether this lack of motivation is partly related to outdated information practices in school.

To an increasing extent, students at universities and other higher education institutions – including future teachers – are also of the digital native generation. Alienation of such people from study and work practices, which has its origins in school, may form an obstacle to the regeneration of our society. We must therefore develop completely new ways of studying and learning. Storing information away no longer makes sense. Instead, methods must be developed that contribute to the creation of expert knowledge bases and the adaptation of new combinations of information, while promoting future skills and competencies.

Attention to other people’s viewpoints

Passive listening is not currently viewed as an efficient way of learning. In its place, a problem-based, case-oriented, phenomena-based, activating and captivating form of pedagogy is recommended. Future learning forums will not only be physical but also social, virtual, technological and psychological. Social and physical spaces must be designed to facilitate the communal creation of information from a young age.

In terms of social stability, it is important to children that they learn from a young age how to pay attention to another person’s perspective and see issues from different viewpoints. This will enhance broad-mindedness and tolerance. It is integral to future skills that we understand our need for people of very different kinds. Mutual respect is a prerequisite for efficient team work. Seeing issues from new perspectives and an enthusiastic attitude to differences will also form the basis for the creation of an innovation economy.

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