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Education for the future

The below article was published online on World ORT and Biz-community Websites

Education has to change and adapt to tomorrow’s world. What should we study for the future workplace?

By Ariellah Rosenberg, Chief Executive Officer, ORT South Africa

You wake up in the morning anticipating your bowl of cereal to fuel you for the rest of the day, but find an empty carton of milk. It’s a scenario that may be familiar to many of us. You reach for your phone and after a few clicks 10 minutes later you get a two-litre carton of milk delivered to your door by a flying robot.

This is not the preface of a science fiction book – it is becoming a reality in many places in the world. In Finland, a special pilot project has been launched in Helsinki that intends to have drones deliver goods and packages of up to 1.5kg within a distance of up to 10km.

Thousands of years ago we would be approaching prophets and asking them to look into the future to help us paint the picture of the significance of all these changes. The technology pace is so fast that it is difficult to predict how the changes will impact our lives, but mostly how they will impact our livelihood and how best we need to be equipped for jobs that not only don’t yet exist, but that we perhaps cannot even imagine.

When ORT was established in 1880, in the midst of the second industrial revolution, the invention of electricity brought about many changes in the way people lived. When electric power expanded into mass production it also changed the work environment. These changes have had implications for the workforce skills, and ORT’s mission of teaching people skills was significant in helping them adapt to the world of work by providing artisanship and vocational skills training.

Now, 139 years later and with operations in more than 30 countries, ORT faces similar challenges.

In the light of the so called fourth industrial revolution there is the understanding that we have to continuously examine the curriculum, pedagogies and methodologies offered by schools, colleges and universities to adopt and prepare this generation for the future workplace.

In the 1990s the internet transformed all industries through communication, commerce and sharing of information. A few years later, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and automation (robotics) are fast and furious and require us to adapt or be left behind.

Technology is changing the world of work in the way we process information, the way we communicate and the way we share information. There are pros and cons to those changes, but unarguably, it makes our lives easier, cheaper and much more productive.

Digital technologies allow the encoding of analog information into zeros and ones so that computers can store, process and transfer this information. According to The Future of Professions by Richard Susskind, in 2010 only 20 per cent of the world’s information was stored digitally. Today it is 98per cent! And with the shift from print-based information to internet-based information, it further facilitated the creation, access and spread of knowledge. 

The ubiquitous access to professionals and to professional guidance is increasing and provides ample opportunities for both businesses and professionals.

Automation generates anxiety and fear of the society of robots replacing human labor. According to The changing nature of work, a World Development report published by the World Bank Group in 2019, technological progress leads to the direct creation of jobs in the technology sector. Robots are and will be replacing workers, but it is far from clear to what extent. Interestingly, technological change that replaces routine work is estimated to have created more than 23 million jobs across Europe from 1999 to 2016, according to the report.

Technologies bring promise but also possess threats and we need to learn how to maximise the promises that the technologies bring – and minimise the perils of the changes to come.

Alec Ross, author of the Industries of the Future explains that the change driven by digitisation creates efficiencies but everything that we do digitally creates security problems. He calls it the “weaponisation of code”, the most significant development since the missile weaponisation and identifies cyber security know-how as a talent that needs to be developed.

This is why education has to change and adapt to tomorrow’s world. What should our current generation study for the future workplace?

McKinsey’s May 2018 report The Skill Shift Automation and the Future of Workforce indicates skills that will be on the rise and skills that will be shrinking. Physical and manual skills as well as basic cognitive skills will be in less demand, whereas higher cognitive skills, social and emotional skills and technological skills will be high in demand for future jobs.

Therefore, in the same way that any learning curriculum includes reading and writing, so too the basics of computer science have to be incorporated. Coding is becoming the alphabet of how the future will be written.

In a world of zeros and ones where software makes robots so powerful, it is important to ensure we also include emotional intelligence and humanitarianism in the curriculum to create more resilient people. Empowering our youth to not only compete in the world of tomorrow but to become the future leaders.

So here we are, back at home, waking up and ready for our breakfast cereal. But this time the drone delivers the milk before we even open our eyes. Because, hey, IoT (Internet of Things) and Artificial Intelligence already know you are out of milk!

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How will technology impact the future of education?

Reflections from a Study Tour to Israel, MOFET 2013

Technology is progressing so fast that we never seem to be able to keep up to date with it.

As teachers, we sometimes feel that we, the “Desert Generation’s” main objective is to lead our students into the “Promised Land,” and by doing so we ourselves may be left behind, just observing the technological miracles envisaged by this new generation.

There is no question about whether or not technology has an impact on education.  Technology has, and always will, have power on shaping education. The real issue is the approach that we take when handling the changes and challenges that technology conveys.

Rabbi Kook, a significant thinker of the 19th Century said “In every era, you need to learn how to use the elements that influence the generation”. Adapting this to the 21st Century, the approach seems to be to learn what the future holds technologically, so that we can prepare this generation to cope with it.  When examining new and futuristic technologies, one needs to keep in mind the definition of Technology, as given by Allan Kay, an American Computer Scientist.  He said: “Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born”. With the constant and endless changes in technologies today, we need to keep this definition in mind.   Think about the new upgraded cell phone that you have just purchased.  How long will it be before a new version comes onto the market?

In the past 30 years, research on education and technology has shown that since computers were introduced to schools, no change has occurred (Prof Hannan Yaniv, 2013).  There is, however, a need to change the way we think about technology and education. These life changing technologies challenge the digital pedagogy and the approach we take to these changes.  Instead of using new tools to change the way and what we learn we are doing what we have always done, but more efficiently (Jay Hurvitz, 2013).

Prof Sheizaf Refaeli from the Haifa University claims that disruptive technology can lead to disruptive change. The more established the organisation the more resistant it is to change e.g. Education.
Thornburg’s definition of disruptive technology is as follows: “an impossible-to-predict game changer that will fundamentally alter the conventional landscape”. The technology which he predicts will create the third education revolution is the always-connected mobile device.

Research shows how Africa is leapfrogging from an unwired, non-existent e-learning infrastructure to a wireless e-learning infrastructure with whole integration of online and wireless technologies and learning management systems (Brown, 2003). As a result, the potential of using mobile technology in Africa to bridge the digital divide is being re-examined and researched.

In this regard many questions are being posed to researchers and policy makers in the Educational field.  For example:

  1. “Do we understand technology enough to develop policies about it in education?”
  2. “When is learning effective?”

The leading answer seems to be that children need to become “designers for learning” and not the “consumers of learning”.  To achieve this end, there is a need for cultural change, and then one has to ask what the role of the teacher is?   The teacher will then be accountable for the quality of the content being learnt.

How can Technology be the catalyst for change? Examples from the Technion

  1. Use of mobile technology, such as laptops, in crowded classrooms to create active learning
  2. YouTube – used as a platform for assignments
  3. Cloud Pedagogy – learning can take place everywhere, no classroom boundaries

Virtual realities, simulations, mobile technology, virtual platform, cloud pedagogy and digital pedagogy, need to be examined to create lifelong learning.   This will equip our students for a future that we ourselves can’t even envisage.

From tablets to tablets

Technology + Mobile = Disengaged students?

I would like to start my reflections on the mobile and wireless technology seminar  with some questions fellow teachers raised regards the implications of the use of mobile technologies in education.

As you can guess not many participants are convinced regards the importance of incorporating mobile and innovative technologies in education. Follow are some of the questions  often raised:

  1. “Laptops make a good school better, but they don’t make a bad school good” (Fellow twitter-@dajbleshaw)
  2. “In a class with perfect equipment and perfect teacher – will a perfect teaching and learning occurs? Are the pace, depth and outcomes achieved in this class satisfying?”Reeva, Israel
  3. “What can a laptop/ other gadgets provide that a pen and pencil can not?”
  4. The following movie from the Series South Park illustrate classroom situation when computers are used by students http://vimeo.com/4689743

Agree/ disagree? Please share your experience and thoughts.

Sawubona Ivory Park

Whenever we start a new project in a previously disadvantaged area, I get excited to meet the teachers and principals of the schools we are working at and look forward to meeting them during the project.

The excitement and anticipation, makes me think…

The state of education in this country is not great to say the least. In 2008 only 62.5% of Grade 12 learners passed matric; but an even gloomier picture is when you compare the number of learners in Grade 11 in 2007 to the number of these learners that wrote matric. Then you discover that only 64% of those grade 11 learners wrote matric in 2008. Of this original cohort of 2007 only 36.2% passed matric. Some regard this number as a more accurate state of the matric pass rate. Link for SIRR report

Another sad number is that only about 20% of the students who passed matric qualify to enroll to undergraduate study at university, (11.7% if you do the math from 2007)

While I don’t think this is a situation that can be fixed from today to tomorrow, I am optimistic…We have to get to the roots of the problem.

I believe the efforts should start from early Childhood. Trying to “fix” the problem at the high school level is too late and as we can see, it does not achieve any progress.

Therefore I feel lucky to be working at an organization such as ORT, who has the vision of “educating for life” , targets Foundation and Intermediate Phase teachers and  is close to cutting edge technologies that are applied in our services of teachers’ training and on-site support.

So these are my thoughts when we are launching the Ivory Park ABSA project. This project aims to enhance the Science and Technology state in the Ivory Park area for Foundation and Intermediate Phase teachers.

The launch in the community centre in Ivory Park is due next week on the 25th of February 2009 and I am looking forward to welcome all … Sawubona! (Hello in Zulu)

Reflections from PATT 2008


PATT stands for Pupils’ Attitude Towards Technology but in the recent PATT conference I was privileged to attend it was lightheartedly suggested by Prof. Marc J. de Vries to run a new research on “Politicians Attitude Towards Technology “.

The technology education is in a quest for survival all over the world. Australia, USA and Israel painted a gloomy picture on the place technology is taking. What technology is and the way it is perceived all over the world is one of the main issue key holders in technology education deals with at the moment.

“Preaching to the converters” by some of the presenters on what is technology and why it is important to include technology as a subject in the curriculum. Although no need to convince the converters it was a good reminder for those “building the ark while no one believes the storm is coming and everyone thinks it is a ridiculous thing to do” (Prof. Marc J. de Vries)

Interesting presentations were also given on the integration of technology with subjects such as Science, Math and Languages, proof that the technological process or the design process fosters in learners higher thinking skills such as problem solving, creativity, teamwork and critical thinking all of which can be applied to any subject.

The highlight of the conference, for me, was the visit to ORT Israel schools and also the presentations by various parties in Israel (such as TLV University) on the introduction of engineering and robotics as from Foundation Phase up to Matrics. While we struggle with the image of technology, those highly developed technologies projects may validate the importance of the subject and therefore are worthwhile exploring for throughout the world.

Teachers’ pre-service and in-service training curriculums were discussed and workshoped, different researches on technology attitudes, implementation, various assessments etc were presented and shared.

Great organization by ORT Israel and especially by Osnat Dagan and Dov Kipperman completed the conference with Israeli family oriented atmosphere, visit to Zichron Yaakov winery and loads of Israeli yummy food.

Oh, remember the debate?


Technology education should be positioned in the main stream as a discipline in its own right. (Therefore the question is what is technology contributing to the general knowledge that other disciplines don’t?)


Rather technology education must focus on the unique knowledge and skills students acquire in learning technology. (But then some may argue that this specific knowledge and skills only applies to a small portion of the students’ community or that it is more costly).

There was a panel composed by the best academic in the field of technology education but as in many debates in life, politics, and even education no agreement was reached.

It was concluded that there is still hope for technology education we just need patience, perseverance and prophets like Prof. Marc , Yoel, Dov and others…

Please log into the debate page and comment in the body of the blog regards your view.  https://ariellah.wordpress.com/technologyfocus/

Also please share your opinion regarding technology education in the poll (feel free to suggest other questions to post in the poll https://ariellah.wordpress.com/technologyfocus/ ).

Yours in technology