Up until the early 20th century, futurists estimated that human knowledge doubled every 100 years.
By the mid 19th century, knowledge doubled every 25 years.
Today – thank to computers’ processing power – knowledge doubles every 12 hours.
This exponential increase in knowledge ushers in an antithetical decline in the half-life of knowledge and skills. For example:
- The half-life of an engineering degree was 35 to 40 years in the early 20th century, 10 years in the 1960s, and now a little over two to five years currently.
- Research estimates that the half-life of professional skills is five years.
The expiration of knowledge and skills is largely a result of technology and its ability to disprove information, make new discoveries, and automate functions in our lives. In a similar vein, this trend runs parallel to a shift in the economic dependency on these technologies and computing power, which is commonly termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0.
What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 is an economic shift that is a result of increased globalization and rapid advancement in technology that shapes the way we live, learn, and work. Industry 4.0 has fueled trends like:
- Automation and the rise of middle and high-skill jobs.
- Intangible value in skills like leadership, communication, and design.
- Remote work, distributed global workforces, and online, cross-cultural collaboration.
- Digital tools in the workplace and a partnership between humans and computers.
- Careers in high-tech fields like computer science and STEM.
Because of Industry 4.0 and the decay of knowledge and skills, readiness today is fundamentally different and places a high demand on computer science, digital literacy, social and emotional, and 21st-century frameworks.
What is Education 4.0?
To equip students with these skills, curriculum and teaching practices must adapt to keep pace with the economic needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
A recent report by the World Economic Forum termed this needed pedagogical adaptation Education 4.0.
Beyond a basis is subject-matter knowledge, Education 4.0 necessitates skills that enable students to continuously learn, evolve their understanding, and grow their skill set: to know how to search for more knowledge, how to ask the right questions, how to vet information, and how to seek out experts.
Under this new approach to teaching and learning, students must learn to think critically, analyze information, and design innovative solutions in environments reflective of what they will experience in the future – environments that are collaborative, online, and diverse.
A New Horizon for Pedagogy
According to the World Economic Forum, curriculum under Education 4.0 must cultivate these skills:
- Global citizenship skills
- Innovation and creativity skills
- Technology skills
- Interpersonal skills
And teaching practices must adapt to foster the following types of learning experiences:
- Personalized and self-paced learning
- Accessible and inclusive learning
- Problem-based and collaborative learning
- Lifelong and student-driven learning
Absent seismic shifts to the structure of schools and the nature of learning, meeting all of these needs is a tall order. And while the World Economic Forum offers 16 examples of schools who have restructured learning in order to promote these shifts to curriculum and teaching practice, they aren’t necessarily realistic for the average district.
Given current circumstances, however, there are still ways that educators can work toward these changes on both a classroom and administrative level by strategically adopting and employing digital tools, which is fitting because the Fourth Industrial Revolution is predicated on technology.
In the remainder of this article, we will explore how educators can actualize these shifts to curriculum and teaching practices with technology and within the current structure of schools and districts.
Addressing Education 4.0 Skills in Curriculum
Global Citizenship Skills
Technology is leveling borders with global workforces, internationally accessible products and services, and personal networks of peers and friends that live worldwide. Globalization is leading to socioeconomic and cultural issues that are increasingly interconnected and dependent.
Global Citizenship Skills and Students: Global citizenship fosters awareness of these global issues and encourages students to see themselves as agents of change and as global peers. Through this, students develop cooperation, empathy, and social awareness.
Global citizenship skills support cross-cultural collaboration and teach students to expand their learning network and connect with global peers and experts.
Global Citizenship Skills in the Classroom
- Transport students all over the world and help them experience content in entirely new ways with Google Maps or Virtual Reality.
- Help students build global networks that connect them to peers worldwide with social media.
- Leverage tools like Skype to connect students with experts or people with first-hand accounts of international current events.
- Introduce students to trusted forums, blogs, or websites they can visit to learn about global issues.
Innovation and Creativity Skills
Innovation and creativity are essential to problem solving and critical thinking. Faced with troves of data, fast-paced work environments, and competitive product landscapes, innovation and creativity are necessary in every industry to compete, iterate, organize, and lead.
Innovation Skills, Creativity Skills, and Students: With innovation and creativity, students develop the capacity for complex problem solving, critical and computational thinking, data analysis, and design, which fuel the development of solutions, services, products, and frameworks.
These skills require comfort with ambiguity, open-ended problems, data complexity, collaboration, curiosity, and flexibility with evolving information.
Innovation and Creativity Skills in the Classroom
- Offer opportunities for makerspaces, project-based learning, and hands-on activities both in group and individual settings.
- Integrate synchronous and asynchronous online collaboration.
- Give students hands-on opportunities to create with technology, such as coding their own games.
- Interact with real-world data and information, and teach them to organize, analyze, and visualize it.
- Encourage iterative design projects with multimedia tools and online simulators, and push students to perform continuous testing and interact with end users for feedback.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is powered by technology, so it is critical that the workforce has the capacity to use it, solve problems with it, and create better versions of it. An inability to do so stymies productivity, growth, and technological progress.
Technology Skills and Students: Technology skills include basic digital skills that enable students to use a variety of devices and software programs productively and effectively. These digital skills also encompass computer science coding skills that enable students to understand computational processes, modify code to build on existing technology, or program entirely new solutions.
With explicit instruction and authentic technology integration, students develop digital literacy, which teaches them how to use current technology tools, how to adapt to new technology as it is released, and how to safely and effectively employ technology in academic, work, and personal situations.
Technology Skills and Students
- Provide instruction that teaches students about basic technology operations and programs that can transfer across a variety of use cases, devices, and systems.
- Allow students to personalize how they demonstrate understanding by producing creative and original artifacts with technology.
- Equip students with computational thinking skills so they use technology for problem solving and data analysis and leverage algorithms to program automated solutions and to create new systems and processes as needed.
- Address digital citizenship skills that help students to collaborate and communicate digitally, safely access and assess online information, build community with social media, and manage their digital footprint.
Posing a major shift from the earlier industrial revolutions, which relied on repetitive and process-driven work, automation and the rise of intangible value necessitate interpersonal and social and emotional skills. Today’s work environments are far more collaborative and rely on value from leadership, creativity, culture, and talent.
Interpersonal Skills and Students: Rather than preparing students to work within systematized roles, education must now prepare students for work that requires consistent and positive interaction with others and innate human skills.
These interpersonal competencies are comprised of social and emotional intelligence as well as collaboration, communication, cooperation, empathy, and adaptability.
Interpersonal Skills in the Classroom:
- Integrate collaborative software programs that enable students to work within groups to develop creative artifacts.
- Introduce students to different communication technologies and help them develop strategies to use them effectively for connecting, sharing feedback, and brainstorming with peers.
- Invite experts and people with different perspectives with video conferencing that challenge students to consider multiple perspectives and ask clarifying questions.
Aligning Teaching Practices with Education 4.0
Personalized and Self-Paced Learning
Personalization is pervasive and comes down to the idea that everyone’s needs are not the same. In education, personalization and self-paced learning allow students to work through content at their own pace and build toward mastery and true knowledge and skill acquisition.
Outside of a teacher mapping individualized learning sequences for every student, technology is the obvious way to actualize this in the classroom through adaptive content, student-led inquiry, or video resources for mastery learning.
Accessible and Inclusive Learning
Accessible and inclusive learning ensures that instruction is to the benefit of all students and allows for equal opportunity for everyone. This learning mechanism takes into account issues like learning styles and representation in content.
Technology promotes this with accessibility features like translations, a more diverse array of content, and customization based on student preference.
Problem-Based and Collaborative Learning
Problem-based learning fosters creativity and innovation through iterative and collaborative projects and inquiry. Students learn how to be amenable to open-ended problem solving, work through ambiguity, and focus on the process more than the answer.
Effective problem-based learning depends upon collaborative opportunities that introduce diverse perspective and social-emotional skills throughout the problem-solving process.
With technology, students can personalize their projects both in their focus and how they choose to demonstrate their learning. Students collaborate with classroom peers and external people for information and feedback. And students gain access to an infinite number of resources that pushes them to use effective search strategies, vet information, and properly cite their resources.
Lifelong and Student-Driven Learning
Going back to the exponential increase in knowledge and the related decay in the longevity of knowledge and skills, work today requires us to be lifelong learners, to continuously adapt our understanding of concepts, and to develop new skills alongside advances in technology.
To be successful in this environment, students must learn to love learning, become self-starters, and adopt a growth mindset.
In the classroom, student-driven learning starts with students developing curiosity and having opportunities to drive their own learning. This lifelong learning aptitude relies on problem-based, accessible, and personalized learning experiences and, in an Education 4.0 classroom, hones global citizenship, innovation, technology, and interpersonal skills.
Education 4.0 Revisited
As the future of work evolves, future readiness will depend upon responsive shifts to these new needs in the workplace. By using technology meaningfully, educators can bring these shifts to fruition with more equitable classrooms that teach content and essential and transferable skills through high-quality learning environments that imbue these elements with relevancy.
Imagine kids taking ownership of their learning and finding problems they want to solve. They ask a question, seek diverse and global perspectives, and break down a problem into smaller pieces. They design and create a digital solution and share it with peers for feedback and collaborative iteration.
Throughout this learning experience, students are energized and engaged, and this fuels a curiosity for problem solving. And despite an expiration of knowledge and skills, they have the lifelong ability to ask questions, seek solutions, and use technology to innovate.