Smart classrooms will encourage life-long students to self-educate

Students must take more responsibility for their own education, preparing them for a dynamic workplace driven by disruptive technology

Smart classrooms will encourage life-long students to self-educate

Have you noticed the different way generations talk?

I’m not making a wise-crack about monosyllabic teenagers or poor grammar. I’m talking about the ‘google it’ phenomenon. Recognise it?

While my wife and I can happily while away a lunchtime ‘discussing’ the date of an old album release or the plot of a long-unread novel, our teenage children find the competing justifications and memories frustrating. ‘Just google it’ they chorus, shaking their heads at their ‘obsolete’ 40-something parents.

Something has changed. Where as my generation were taught to value a cannon of knowledge, millennials take pride in their ability to navigate to the information they require for any task or discussion.

From ‘jobs for life’ to ‘life-long learning’

And that’s a good thing!

The world is changing rapidly. Our economic models and job markets are expected to undergo significant disruption and revision. New technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D printers, robots and cobots (to name a few) are on the verge of becoming more integrated into businesses and homes.

The ‘jobs for life’ mantra of our grandparent’s generation, has been replaced by the likelihood that children born in Europe today may need to switch jobs and even industries a number of times over their careers. In order to transition successfully, future generations will need to be meta learners.

In its simplest terms meta learning means being aware of and taking control of one's learning. Other terms include self-teaching’ or being an ‘auto-didactic’.

Creating a workforce of meta learners

In our latest research paper into the impact of technology on key sectors in Europe we asked 17 leading thinkers about the impact of technology on the workplace by 2025. We then put their thoughts to over 7000 European business leaders and employees  to test their perceptions and preparedness for these changes.

According to Ben Hammersley, editor at large of the UK edition of WIRED magazine (amongst other accolades), “Meta learning will be a key skill as an employee and a student” in the future. This hypothesis was supported by 57 percent of business leaders in Europe who believe that meta learning will become the new norm.

In the classroom, meta learning will be supported by a new array of collaborative technology like interactive projectors, wearable devices, augmented reality and 3D printing.

Teachers will be increasingly expected to act as guides, rather than lecturers, supporting students to follow their own tailored educational goals. Seventy-two percent of Europeans agree that learning will become tailored and more personalised towards the individual, even within a shared classroom.

Are we prepared for the change?

While there is some trepidation about the potential challenges new technology will bring to the traditional educational model, some trends in particular are seen as very positive. Given the expected needs of the economy by 2025, blended learning (using a mix of online and offline educational tools) is supported by 68 percent of the European workforce, collaborative education is supported by 65 percent, and meta learning by 66 percent.

Overall, 55 percent of the European workforce also agree that meta learning will have a positive impact on the education sector as a whole.

So, will future generations be less knowledgeable?

It also seems I’m not alone in my reaction to the ‘google it’ culture. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed fear that an over reliance on accessing information via technology could lead to general knowledge diminishing.

However, I have begun to see this adaptation as part of a longer-term trend.

Before the printing press, our forefathers shared an oral tradition of learning that we no longer feel is necessary or practical. Perhaps the popularisation of encyclopaedias in a previous generation led to a spate of despairing ‘look it up’ comments in homes across Europe.

But I do not think many of us would submit to the idea that Europe’s education systems had suffered for the integration written language or text books. Nor do I believe that we have become less knowledgeable.

New technologies create new ways of working, and new ways of working can lead to new explorations, discoveries and ideas.

The prospect of an educational system and workplace that employs the latest technologies to support life-long learning, encourage independent exploration, and supports creativity makes me excited about our future.

Want to know more?

The full report has all the insights, you can download it here: