Dean of Learning

Dean of Learning

Living and learning in an exponential age

We know what has replaced the telephone in the hallway, the encyclopedia on the bookshelf, the photograph in an album, the chalk on the ledge of the blackboard, the letter in the mail, the CD/DVD in the rack, the cassette player on the fridge, the train ticket in the pocket, the paper and pen on the desk and the book beside the bed.  Hopefully, this article will be an encouragement to identify the changes happening around you at the time they are happening rather than in hindsight and how this applies to our girls’ life and learning.

Udo Gollub’s  Facebook post  “What the world will look like in 2020” makes for fascinating reading given many of us  are trying to keep pace with what is happening in the world now. What did you think when you read “Facebook post” in the first sentence? Could you access the post? If you accessed it, did you question the veracity of the article because it was on Facebook? Did you just take it in your stride? This is the world in which your daughter lives and learns. Our Year 10 students will be walking into the world described in the post in 2020. 

Taxi drivers, hotel managers, lawyers, real estate agents, marketers, healthcare workers and engineers are living and learning in an exponential age of change. Uber and Airbnb are in the business of transport and accommodation and yet have a business model not owning the prime assets – cars and hotels. Young lawyers in the US don’t get jobs because IBM Watson can give basic advice within seconds with 90 per cent accuracy requiring the future of lawyers to be more specialised. Facebook has pattern recognition software with the potential to link faces to names and the consumer preferences for targeted marketing. Apps are now available for house searchers to competitively bid to lease a house, placing pressure on the practices of real estate property managers.  Phones can potentially be used for medical advice and monitoring with the capacity to scan your retina and sample your blood when you breathe into it; making it possible to analyse 54 biomarkers to identify diseases. Then there is the 3D printing of mechanical structures and even human organs transforming engineering and medicine.

At this stage all these issues are not at the coalface for our students, but living and learning in an era of rapidly evolving new media is. This is arguably a significant issue at home and is one focus for pastoral care and learning at school. ln 2009 there was a report on Living and Learning with New Media  reflecting  “how do people learn, play, socialise and participate in civic life”?

From the pastoral/new media perspective students  are still “hanging out” with their friends online and they are still “messing around” with new media. This involves multiple messages to individual people in very short time frames. This perspective is supported by a greater uptake of social messaging such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Snapchat and We Chat rather than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

We know the girls are agile when they tell us that Facebook is for old people.  We need to monitor the “always on communication”, be there, and provide strategies on how to avoid tricky and inappropriate  situations as indicated by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg.

In the learning/new media arena, for example, David Speers of Sky News, in a recent speech to journalists, spoke of fake news, outlining how to identify and deal with such news. All news information is more prevalent and readily available through mainstream media, social media and live streaming video through Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope.   In the classroom we work to help students  discern the facts, identify bias and cross check the evidence.   This has particularly been the case in the Year 10 Integrated Learning unit  “Looking Beneath the Surface” which focuses on issues that affect women in the world.   

We do not know for sure what the future involves but it is certain it will include developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Intelligent Assistants (IA) and Virtual Reality (VR). In relation to education, what will happen to the photocopier in the corner office, the data projector in the ceiling, the pen in the hand, the hours of the school day, the venue of class lessons, the style and format of the HSC, the teacher in the classroom, the learning spaces of the students at home and school and the structure and format of the plenaries? What will be our role in these changes?

We do not accept change for change sake but we are open to opportunities.  We want students to read books, use a pen/pencil for handwriting/drawing pictures and of course for examinations, do manual calculations with numbers, be able to read a map and not just use the GPS, have face-to-face conversations and look each other in the eye. These foundation skills are very important to provide the platform of building individual knowledge and skills, team work through personal contact and an ability to respond to and harness change.

Notwithstanding, rapid changes in life and learning do occur and require analysis and considered responses.  In the six to eight years a student is at Loreto Normanhurst a lot does happen in the world in which they live. Our goal, in partnership with the wider community, is to be informed and agile in our responses to living and learning in an exponential age.


Mr Martin Pluss

Dean of Learning