Does one seize, create, or is handed opportunities?
The meta opportunity system
For decades, a system has tried to hand people the opportunity to seize opportunities - education. Such a system aims to help people understand the world around them and connect with it so that society thrives. Education is an invention, supposed to become the controlling aspect of the stochastic life that humans are bound to experience for a brief moment in the universe’s existence.
The meta opportunity system has failed to distribute opportunities uniformly. My prediction is that the current thousands of innovations trying to 'fix' education (and the next thousands) may only produce marginal changes in certain opportunities; in certain people. Such changes won't translate into net benefits for everyone.
Why won't they achieve net benefits?
Because 'opportunity' is a much broader concept than what current innovations are trying to achieve. Current innovations try to enhance one of the two steps of our current meta opportunity system. Either help instructors improve their teaching so that students learn better and more, or help students directly to learn better and more.
So long that they make learning the endpoint, they won't build the bridge towards having the opportunity to participate in the economy in a meaningful way; having the opportunity to respond to the world around them instead of reacting to it; having the opportunity to foster and maintain healthy and happy relationships; having the opportunity to make day-to-day decisions that translate into living a physically and mentally healthy life; having the opportunity to make an impact in the world; and having the opportunity to experience life deliberately. The bridge between learning and having opportunities handy is becoming.
To help teachers teach so that students learn so that learners become is too far away from the end goal.
Teachers can't teach how to become
If we want to achieve net benefits, the meta opportunity system will have to accept that teachers can't teach all students to understand the world and connect with it. Teachers are trained to lecture and are expected to cover the curriculum. The tools they have at their disposal ignore that students are at different stages of their development in every dimension, yet they are expected to be someone they are not - the average.
The meta opportunity system has put billions at the mercy of luck.
The EdTech moonshot I envision will bring opportunities - in the broader sense of the word - to everyone. It will do so by converting teachers, parents, and students, all of them, into facilitators and learners at the same time. It will create learning communities and set up environments that make learning meaningful and useful.
This moonshot approaches learning as a design problem, not as a “lack of knowledge” problem.
We need to make measurements count
If we already have tech services that know us so well to sell us anything, is it then too crazy to believe that the technology that knows us so well to learn better and more could also exist? How would the world look like if we created a ‘becoming’ tool that becomes more relevant for everyone over time as more people used it?
The limited cognitive abilities of humans, including teachers, can only make sense of discrete, non-comprehensive, and stigmatizing measurements - grades. These grades shape perceptions that nurture beliefs that drive attitudes that frame students’ learning environments. Grades are rarely used as tools to support learning.
We need a tool capable of understanding how humans learn at an individual and collective level - at all times. We need a tool that helps everyone become facilitators and learners within their learning communities. The only teacher will be the stochastic life I mentioned before, which is not so stochastic after all, but a consequence of peoples’ ability to understand the world and connect with it.
To make measurements count, we need to measure progress, not achievement.
What we need to measure to democratize opportunities is progress in critical thinking, cognitive control, emotional intelligence, and communication. By measuring this at a global scale, we can finally make the meta opportunity system a means to an end.
Let’s stop teaching teachers how to teach critical thinking. Let’s design a learning environment where students can become critical thinkers with the STEM curriculum that already exists.
Let’s stop demanding students to have outstanding cognitive control with volition as their only tool. Let’s design a learning environment where students can become better over time. Let’s remove goals and deadlines and let them take their time to master their foundations.
Let’s stop hoping that students will act deliberately by telling them what is right and wrong. Let’s design a learning environment that allows them to experiment, recognize, and understand their own inner processes so that they can become the designers of their own future. To steer behavior and cognition, we need to understand emotion.
Let’s stop teaching students and let them become learners instead. Let’s design a learning environment where learners connect with their learning communities as communicators.
If we manage to create an EdTech Moonshot, everyone will finally seize and create their own opportunities.
Perception shapes reality
Why hasn’t this happened yet? I hypothesize that, sadly, no one in the education space has thought too big and has been handed the opportunity to give it a shot.
The first step in making this happen is to convince people that it can be done.