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Edutech 2014 & Disruptive Innovation

An alarming call to action by Ian Jukes

The closing Keynote by Ian Jukes of the Fluency 21 Project was very powerful and challenging.

It had been a great two days with plenty of impressive presentations from such luminaries as Sir Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra, to the excellent Jenny Luca and a very impressive Yr 9 student Leio who was very passionate about coding.

But the Closing Keynote was ‘disruptive’; it was unsettling and very challenging and left me feeling some fear and trepidation for my students.

Ian Jukes gave some very good evidence and convincing arguments that a tsunami of change is here that will seriously impact the future job prospects and economic health of our students.

While he may be wrong on some of the minor details, and while the changes confronting us may arrive more gradually, and therefore less disruptively than he envisages, the central message of his presentation was very hard to challenge in my opinion.

Some of his statements may be a little over the top, such as this one: “Our education system is not broken, just obsolete.”, but the hyperbole may help to give us time for serious pause and reflection.

He quoted the great Helen Keller to support his vision of a ‘disruptive’ reality.

She was asked by a student what it was like to spend a lifetime being blind.  She responded: “The only thing worse than not being able to see is being able to see and having no vision”

Here are a couple of the graphs he presented:

graph jobs 1

Industry Changes

Job changes

He spoke about how much of the change is the job market is by stealth, and is much more significant than most of us realize.

Ian argued with some statistic evidence that the agricultural and industrial (‘working’ in chart) workforces are declining significantly.

He argued that one of the few areas of the workforce in Australia (and elsewhere) that is not in so great a decline is the location dependent service’ workforce.

In some ways, and in some areas the location dependent service workforce is still growing but computer automation is restricting even this area.

This is in part because some repetitive, low skill level, service industry jobs can be replaced by technology.

Creative workforce jobs though are facilitated by technology and are therefore much less likely to be negatively impacted by the changes brought about by outsourcing, off-shoring and automation.

He then went on to argue that our schools were designed for agricultural and manufacturing/industry jobs. These standard and traditional practices still common in schools suited the industrial age, but no longer adequately prepare students for the significant changes in careers that the future holds.


He even argued that these changes will impact the teaching profession: “Teachers are vulnerable to adaptive technology.  Apps can’t replace good teachers though.”

Ian argued that this workforce change is NOT an aberration. It is the way things are. We must shift our thinking and change the way we ‘do’ education or our real ‘clients’ (our students) may suffer lifelong unemployment.

He stated that “Our classrooms were designed for a different era. Especially now that 75% of Australian jobs are in creative and service jobs.”

A scary statistic for our students as they leave school is that before they reach the age of 38 they are likely to have had 10-17 different careers (not just different jobs).

Today, they must see that life is a ‘school to work’ repeat, that is that there is now a need to be a lifelong learner, to be learning the next set of skills while using the last set in the current job/contract.

He argues that part time and temporary work is becoming the new normal, and the ‘new normal’ is a truly global workspace. Work can be so easily out-sourced and unless location dependent, sent off-shore to third world countries where the cost is much lower, but the educational talent pool is increasingly just as capable as that of Australia.

Any repetitive ‘white collar’ work can be either out-sourced or automated. For example, legal software, and tax preparation can be automated and therefore replace traditional jobs in these areas.

He argues that the top 3 anticipated skills of a worker in 2014 are now:

1. Teamwork
2. Problem solving
3. Interpersonal skills

“The world doesn’t care what you know, it only cares what you can do with what you know!”

“Short life skills such as memorization is not the key to success. Long life skills such as creativity, interpersonal skills, critical thinking and problem solving will be the key to success.”

Some other important points he made were:

  • Connectivity is transforming knowledge. We live in the age of Infowhelm.
  • Students are now our clients. They have many options for learning. Are we offering them a valuable and competitive product
  • For the digital generation the world is one great big social network.
  • Mobile devices will transform learning experience.
  • Big data is here to stay. Radical personalization of learning is on the way.
  • The older generation don’t get teaching and learning.

I think all teachers, especially high school teachers and administrators need to take this message seriously. We need to research these trends; validate their accuracy and timing; and then start to work together to address how we can respond to better prepare our nations next generation so that they can look forward without too much fear or anxiety, but instead with great anticipation for the exciting future that awaits those who are properly prepared.

We need to better teach:

    • creativity;
    • team-work;
    • problem solving skills, and
    • critical thinking,

but with real-world relevance as much as possible.

I believe that the teaching of Computational Thinking and ‘coding’ can go a long way to meeting some of the most important aspects of an education that enables our students with much better skills in all these areas and with good prospects to be part of the ‘Creative Class’.


    • “We must disrupt ourselves or someone or something else will.”
    • “Education stands in the gap between the present and the future; between success and failure.”

Education can build the bridge, but it is a radically different bridge. It is time to get serious and get started.
Find more on Ian Jukes via Learningfutures21.com

For a little from Sir Ken Robinson see: http://www.ozteacher.com.au/picks/edutech-2014-sir-ken-shares-his-insights/28839

Jenny Luca’s awesome presentation is here: http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/EduTECH+2014

Also see: http://jennyluca.com/

For a curated coverage of the latest news on Computational Thinking in the K-12 educational space go here
– http://www.scoop.it/t/computational-thinking-in-digital-technologies  




10 thoughts on “Edutech 2014 & Disruptive Innovation

  1. Very interesting discussion that needs to be taking place, not just at a school level but a departmental level.


    Posted by jslobe | June 5, 2014, 6:30 pm
  2. Learn Code


    Posted by Sandra Lewis | June 12, 2014, 10:58 pm
  3. Another interesting reflection on this talk from others who were present:


    “Disruptive innovation is a huge part of the modern world, and I’ll admit that the idea that adaptation is needed in education was one that wasn’t too big a stretch.

    However the idea that global changes are disrupting our traditional teaching role and making it more likely to be obsolete was a bigger idea to swallow, and it took time.

    Our student retention results are dropping across the western world according to Jukes, and students are walking away from education at a rate that if represented in the corporate world would “indicate a defective product.” (I’m paraphrasing.) Jukes argues that if we don’t change our product, we face an uphill battle to equip our students with usable skills when they move into the market.”


    Posted by thinkingcomputationally | June 13, 2014, 8:41 am


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