Disruptive technology – good or bad for educators?

By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

Rachael Mann, author, speaker, and educator opens a discussion about disruptive technology by asking, “How might technology change our workforce?”

Take the touch screen on our phones and iPads – if pilots use those devices, what will they use in the cockpit? Esterline has recently innovated a touch screen panel for commercial aircraft. It’s these types of technologies perhaps used first for consumers – or maybe used first by NASA – that become the norm. Both consumers and tradespeople come to expect technologies to transfer.

This begs the question of “why is it disruptive?”

The reason, according to Mann, is that education is typically slow to move. Change can be difficult, while technology is fast to move.

When Mann thinks of disruptive technologies that are bound to impact educators she cites:

  • Transportation – Mann asks the question, “Will we have individual cars in the future?” In big cities many are opting to rideshare, UBER, or coming soon – use aerial taxis (autonomous vehicles). They are doing so because of hassle and expenses of parking and sitting in traffic. This will cause many to adapt to a different model. What does this mean for our auto manufacturers?
  • Automation – When considering automation Mann cited David Eagleman who said we use to learn something “just in case,” but now it is “just in time.” In the world of manufacturing, Washington companies are scrambling to know how much to invest in automation and how fast. There is also a need for people to manage the flow of automation and the machinery.
  • Drones – Mann reflects, “There is UBER EATS now, but there is the idea of drones delivering your takeout food.” She is also thinking about drones in transportation as taxis.
  • Artificial Intelligence – Mann suggested that the advances in Google assistant will go to where it sounds like a human being and it demonstrates intelligence. “The AI should be getting smarter and answering more complex problems,” she added. But the question is, isn’t the intelligence based upon the input?
  • Robotics – Regarding robotics Mann said, “We now know this will be a job shift, but not a job loss. The amount of production that can be done is astounding. But humans need to be present. If you talk to doctors in the future they need to be more tech savvy, but they will still need to be present.”
  • Smart cities – Mann’s insight toward smart cities is personal. She had a car break-in and found that there is an app called Nextdoor that allows her to connect with her neighbors and their household surveillance systems. By finding out how many people are recording the front of her house helped her to solve the crime.
  • Brain interfacing technology – Mann said that per a Japanese study, there are electrodes that can help people who can’t speak or hear to understand voice.

How are the schools responding to the disruptive tech? Mann said, “Education is not changing rapidly enough to keep up.” She suggested more of a holistic approach where educators look at a variety of disciplines and their applications in the workforce.

Mann also feels that we need to let kids “wrestle with ideas.” She said that maker-spaces and education that allows kids to “think, to feel frustrated, and to be able to look for answers,” is one solution.

There has been an uphill climb in helping parents to understand the shift from vocational education to Career and Technical Education (CTE). She said that many parents, and students of today see CTE as a competitive edge. For example, for a medical student that has taken paramedics at a Skills Center, they will have an additional technical skill that they can bring to the interview. For a student who has taken a drone programming class in high school, they will be more of an asset in a Mechatronics program at a community and technical college.

“We now know this will be a job shift, but not a job loss. The amount of production that can be done is astounding. But humans need to be present. If you talk to doctors in the future they need to be more tech savvy, but they will still need to be present.”

Rachael Mann

Speaker, Author, Teacher