Two weeks ago in New Zealand the Commerce Commission made the ruling that the two largest NZ media companies (that are evolving out of their totally printed page history) were not allowed to merge. This would make in the Commission’s mind an unfair monopoly of media services – presumably mainly in the printed media but maybe in online media too.
This ruling seems to ignore the fact that Google and Facebook and all their elements already are taking a huge proportion of the advertising dollar and monopolise the public interest and involvement in media both social and information.
In another aspect of the media sports television coverage in New Zealand is dominated by Sky Television – especially for Rugby coverage. Is this any different from a general news coverage monopoly?
As an educator I keep being left wondering whether decisions such as that made by the Commerce Commission are examples of 20th Century rules and policies not keeping up with the compounding impact of the way all of our lives are being changed by the “internet of everything”. Policies and rules that were fine for the 19th and 20th Century are now barriers and obstructions to life moving forward in the “future that is now”.
Reading Thank You For Being Late by Thomas L Friedman provides some interesting triggers to educational action. Its sub-title An Optomist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations reminds us that the world’s human and physical systems are in acceleration mode and our future is dependent on we humans adapting our social, cultural and other human ways for the good of both the world’s physical and human systems.
Following the argument that the technology of things and the future is now means that we are in the midst of the greatest revolution mankind has ever faced. The “compounding impact of technologies” allowing communication and interaction to spread so easily across international boundaries leave us gasping when we are told that it is only a decade since the advent of the i-phone in 2007 and the explosion in internet speed and accessibility using fibre optics and wi-fi.
Complexity has been removed from many issues and interactions – take a simple one. I can now with a few bits of text tapped into my phone map out my daily walk, get the time to walk it and know the distance it will be – all in a few seconds. When I return from my walk my Fitbit has dutifully recorded my exercise, plus heart rate, stairs climbed etc. Then gives me a 7 day summary and a record back to last Christmas when I got the Fitbit. I no longer need to make my own exercise diary and get readily informed if I have been too sedentary over the past hour.
This gathering of big data goes on all day everyday in all sorts of human endeavours – powerful forces upon which to build new decisions and actions. Electricity distribution and use is being changed rapidly to maximise generation capacity and take advantage of the myriad of ways that savings can be made through new ways to make electricity and save it in individual buildings.
Enough said “what about education?”
Adapt we must Friedman suggests “..at a minimum, our educational systems must be retooled to maximise these needed skills and attributes: strong fundamentals in writing, reading, coding, and math;creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration; grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits; and entrepreneurship and improvisation at every level.”
Although I have no disagreement with Friedman on any of these I find it difficult to accept that our politically driven education systems in OECD countries will be able to re-tool rapidly enough and accept that this accelerated change in world business and social interaction is not going to slow down.
In New Zealand we are bogged down by the surface data on the fundamentals of reading and writing and maths then trumpet about improvement in National Certificate of Educational Achievement results.
Yet our biggest issues are centred around the cultural power houses of grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits. Despite the data being dutifully collected everyday in our schools attendance suggests that we do little with it other than state the bald figures of absenteeism are too high. This ignores those who attend school but are not there in a mental and focussed sense. Consideration of motivation and grit are not explored anywhere near enough.
Where is the big data on joy and happiness in learning? Where is the big data on the joy of being a Kiwi delighting in creativity through music, art and design? Where is the big data on the thrill of team achievement in sport, Stage Challenge and Kapa Haka? Where is the big data on improvisation and adaptation schools are making so their students regardless of their place of residence can access learning opportunities via Google classroom, video conferencing, …All of these things happen in schools but how well are we sharing the experiences students and teachers are having – Twitter and online sharing is making some progress but I doubt that teachers and students have enough reflection time to really engage with and get injections from these exciting happenings.
The gathering of big data by internet giants like Facebook and Google, and big business like Amazon is opening their minds to customer needs and possibilities. Can education do the same?
Time and again we recognise “grit” and “self-motivation” as being the means to build capability. However I doubt there are many schools gathering powerful data on these two essentials for success in a world of run away opportunities. Build on them and our Kiwi population will become even more well known for being the “world’s greatest travellers” – not just in our acceptance of travel and connection being essential elements of life but that we can be great at developing entrepreneurial paths and life-long learning as well.
As one of the last places in the world for human migrations to reach we Kiwis must all have genetic codes that accept that risk, unknown consequences, the need to adapt and be self-reliant are hot wired to our ways of being. Our Polynesian ancestors dared to reach out for “the land of the long white cloud” – Aotearoa. Our European ancestors endured a journey for months to get here. These sea-faring migrants truly risked everything.
As a result our nation with its bi-cultural heritage (Maori and European) struggled and grew through the 19th and 20th Centuries – daring to apply the Treaty of Waitangi as a founding document and endeavouring to right some of the colonial wrongs imposed in the past. Maori and a growing number of pakeha have shown the girt and determination to adapt and change as a result.
In the latter part of the 20th Century and the first two decades of the 21st Century we have enjoyed steady migration flows from a broader and broader mix of cultures so now we Kiwis are growing our bi-cultural heritage into a multi-cultural future. Re-shaping our ways of being and interacting over our multi-cultural future makes New Zealand an exciting place to be but there will be many bumps in the road that will need huge amounts of grit and determination to smooth out.
Not surprisingly our “future is now” as we welcome the changes and pressures of our networked world and loudly express our wish for a trading world where we can gain and retain a reputation for quality and innovation.
Success as a “Our future is now” country will grow if we can loosen the straitjackets imposed on formal education so students and teachers control their own destinies. This will require huge amounts of trust though and our politicians do not seem ready to accept that we at the whanau and community level can grow the capacity of our people to meet the challenges of the “future is now”.
Perhaps our ancestors who gazed at the stars as they sailed across the Pacific knew that they had the skills, daring and grit to make Aotearoa a great place to live and learn in regardless of any of life’s obstacles.
The “future is now” has delivered us the accelerators for learning and trading at speeds never contemplated before in human history.
What will the 4.6 million Kiwis make of now?