Charter for the Digital Path of School

Posted on: August 27th, 2021 by Prof. Alexei Semenov No Comments

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The aim and the future of education

Our world is changing at a blistering speed. A much deeper and widespread change than that of the COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for decades now. It is the digital revolution. And in its wake are social and cultural changes that are far from temporary.
Despite these profound changes in our lives, general educational structures remain quite unchanged.
The Charter expresses the need for the digital transformation of education now and outlines the major future changes.
Education should be based on the inclinations, abilities, and aspirations of every child: to learn and create new things, communicate, collaborate, learn and teach. The actualization and development of these human capabilities, taking into account the personality and cognitive traits of each child, is an ever-increasing necessity.
We cannot stand aside and wait. In the world of accelerating, unpredictable and irreversible changes, ways of establishing proactive education are being formed. Even more, the education is starting to be pre-adaptive, meaning to prepare students for meeting and solving unexpected problems the solution to which sometimes does not exist in the today reality.
Two fundamental changes are essential for the formation of new education. The first refers to a changing human essence, which significantly increases its cognitive capabilities in the digital age, becoming the augmented individual who is part of an augmented
community. The second relates to our everyday life that, in the digital age, is characterized by unprecedented transparency.

The augmented individual and community

Technology is the driving force behind human evolution. It expands the capabilities of humans and their very essence through the development and mastery of emerging cultural instruments. These, in turn, increase the quality of transmission of cultural values to younger generations.
As a significant example, a huge leap in thinking and learning has been associated with the emergence of writing. This communication technology captures the constantly evaporating present and holds it in place, allowing those moments to be preserved in time, possibly for posterity, and transported to other locations to be discussed there. It extended and augmented human abilities to keep, build, and transfer knowledge, wisdom, and education. Our understanding of the world and our place in it underwent profound changes because of writing. That technological invention was recent in the history of Homo sapiens, happened only a few thousand years ago.
Digital media technologies continue the augmentation and extension of humans. During our lifetime, human beings have been extended with such remarkable means as: a text editor and translator, calculator, digital navigator, access to the World Wide Web and other digital means. Our mind gets extended, increasing the power of the human brain in extraordinary ways. But the digital revolution has done much more by providing the availability of artificial intelligence for humans. That has caused the most radical change in human consciousness in the last thousand years.
Thanks to new media technologies, a contemporary person, from his and her place, has access to everybody on the planet (emails, messengers, social networks), to every site on the earth (Google maps), to any available knowledge of humanity (Wikipedia and object identification). His brain is significantly technologically enhanced in its three main functions: memory (cloud-based external memory), imagination (simple interface for multimedia creativity), and thinking (available AI technology). Technology has not only extended our existing abilities but also augmented our essence. We call such an extended person an augmented person, emphasizing the qualitative difference of the digital media revolution from all previous ones.
With the advent of digital technologies, profound changes in our sense of ourselves and the world are happening concomitantly. The deepest change is the very sense of us being human beings augmented with new tools, mental capabilities and connections to the whole of humankind. In this period of transition, a significant part of humans feel uncertainty.
These changes in how we understand ourselves and the world should be engaged by our educational system.
What does this mean for education?
The graduates of the emerging education should be valued in terms of their ability to carry out every day, or professional activities as an augmented human who masters digital means and, no less important, who is capable of making moral choices in a digital society.
The system of educational goals, desired results, standards and programs should be addressed specifically to augmented students and teachers. Lessons with pen-and-paper work, with “no access to the internet” will disappear.

The transparent life

An emerging phenomenon of the digital age is almost total information transparency. Today’s technology, and even more so concerning tomorrow’s, makes it possible to record almost everything happening in the world. Every person leaves a practically indelible trace of the data of all their activities. These data are potentially available for others’ knowledge and use. It makes practical the belief of world religions of an All-Seeing Eye and Book of Life.
Our traditional notion of privacy is becoming a matter of the past. Data are recorded and used by governments, corporations, and criminals. Obviously, such a significant phenomenon is becoming a considerable challenge to society.
The transparent life happens no less in the educational system. Many schools have CCTV; in the period of COVID education, zettabytes of lessons were recorded and home-work assignments were sent back and forth between teachers and pupils.
The benefits and effectiveness of using these and other data for analysis, evaluation, forecast, and follow-up are very much in demand in society and, primarily, in the educational system.
We need immediate work on morals and ethics for collecting and accessing these data along with pedagogy of using them by teachers and students. The access to and use of personal and other recorded data has to be strictly regulated. Religions developed such moral and ethical principles on dealing with information, such as the mystery of confession.

The child’s right to the digital world

Through a tablet with Internet access, the child meets the wealth and misfortunes of all mankind, the cultural tools of activity, communication and education. They acquires their rights and responsibilities in the digital world, starting with being an augmented individual and being treated as such.
The digital world expands the possibilities for choice, opens up new ways for exploration and maturation. It raises the problem of choice and responsibility to adults, on whose decisions a child’s fate depends. This responsibility is expressed by UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in “General comment No. 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment”.

School and teacher

Today, the school is being digitally expanded beyond the school building to the universe. Schools can be envisioned as a ship, a workshop, a factory, a laboratory, a theater, a museum, a forest and an ocean, and all this – much easier through virtual reality. In our vision, the purposes of the school and the teacher are to give students motivation for an active life of learning, to help them in organizing their activities and cooperating with peers and important adults, to ensure the preservation and promotion of health, to equalize the possibilities of high-quality education for all, observing the requirements of society and the state. All of this and more can also give a future for children with disabilities and their families.
Using and developing all the abilities and capabilities of their augmented minds, teachers can learn together with students, giving feedback and, most importantly, motivating the students. All children love some ideas, such as comparing football players’ accomplishments on the playing field, or doing things such as collecting bottle caps from international beer bottles. They can be close to obsessive about their loves. An important role that teachers play is to harness that spirit of students’ curiosity and motivation to school topics where the digitally transformed world is at their disposal.
Many schools have either already made the digital choice or are on their way to it. But every single child and adult has the right to refuse to use digital means and stay a learner of a traditional pre-digital school. The education system will support such a right: depending on parents’ and children’s desires, there may be schools where gadgets are discouraged, children attend all classes in the school building, and online presence is only due to illness.

Curricula

In our vision, students are co-authors of education that expands the possibilities for the development of their minds and personalities. They independently, yet with the support of a teacher, not only repeat the path of mankind, but also discover by themselves, individually and collaboratively the laws of nature, society and personality, invent methods and algorithms, realize big ideas – the basis for their orientation in the world. They assimilate the emerging cultural practices and participate in their creation.
Knowledge, competences, and life skills will be possessed by the augmented mind of the student. In the future, the need to “memorize” and the time spent on achieving fluency in routine mental work will be greatly reduced based on the of mind augmentation. This opens great opportunities for the creative development of a personality owning the preadaptive learning abilities of systemic and critical thinking, which is ready to perceive and create a new, independent search and application of knowledge. The laws and algorithms independently discovered by the student and the facts found are preserved by their augmented mind and are used as cultural tools. Among these tools, we mention also artificial intelligence, the understanding of which and the ability to use it, as part of the augmented mind and outside of it, should be included in general literacy.
Moreover, the school and teachers should support children in choosing and mastering the most diverse treasures of human culture, whether it be calligraphy, programming, acrobatics, poetry writing or wherever their interests take them.

Digital Learning Platform

Today, there are different understandings of what the digital platform’s components are, what is based on it and what is accessible through it. The digital, integrated implementation of the following functions is required regardless of how we define their relationship to the platform:

    • Support for group communication, with the ability to record the processes e.g., Skype, Zoom, etc.
    • Representing specific roles of student, teacher, administrator, parent, grouping students by class, automatic generation of reports and diaries.
    • Formation of records of individual work (including all texts written by the student and teacher’s feedback), as well as the time spent on it and educational events in which the student participated; using records for student’s reflection, receiving advice from tutors and consultants, keeping it in the big data of learning. The teachers’ work is recorded, as well.
    • Constructing and maintaining the universal (for the given school) set of learning goals and life goals as well as the set of possible activities, assignments, feedback and assessments principles and tools
    • Designing with each student a path to achieve their chosen educational and life goals from the goals placed on the platform, the choice and implementation of tasks from the ones offered by the teacher
    • Providing access to dedicated learning materials such as feedback and evaluation instruments, or digital textbooks.
    • Recording learning outcomes and their dynamics, displaying and forecasting the educational process based on big data with varying degrees of detail and visualization – from the individual student’s action when performing work to the state of affairs in the country’s education system. As in other cases of using data of humans this can be a strong foundation for objectivity and has to be a subject of ethics and norms.
    • Placing and satisfying of educational requests of students and proposals of teachers, organizations and educational programs that go beyond resources of the school.

The digital platform helps the teacher to get rid of mechanical, routine reporting. It opens up new possibilities for the pedagogy of dignity and cooperation. In all cases, matters of privacy and respect are at the pinnacle of these matters, as are the need for student’s and teacher’s autonomy of choice.

Results and grading

Life and work give us feedback, not exams and test procedures with limited time and artificial context. We are valued for our best contributions to the team goals, not been punished for not reached out the ‘norm’.
Whole societies are moving away from exam and test procedures, and so is the educational community. Strengths and needs for shoring up of a person are identified on the digital platform in the process of education and application of its results. The identified data become the regular basis for decision-making by an educational organization or an employer. This does not exclude the possibility of demonstrating the highest achievement in the conditions of an exam or an Olympiad, which may turn out to be the main argument in promoting a person.

Parents, upbringing. Safety, morality and ethics of the digital world

In the digital world, many adults see only new risks for children and parents, ignoring constantly emerging opportunities for mutual understanding, rapprochement and cooperation in the family.
The task of adults is to promote the child’s natural acceptance of safety, the emerging morality and ethics of the digital world, and adherence to them in an environment where everything is transparent. This presupposes the inviolability of the person, the protection of oneself from intrusion, the possibility of repentance and forgiveness and the absence of discrimination and suppression.
The development of destructive digital addictions is prevented by the involvement of children in the joint creation of a non-digital reality, complemented by digital harmony and justice.

Creators of the new in education

It is impossible to predict the future of education. It can be created jointly based on the emerging humanitarian, communicative technologies and other achievements of modern civilization. Following the footsteps of the great Comenius, we are creating a new science of learning – digital mathetics – and teaching – digital didactics. The players, stakeholders and decision-makers responsible for education have a duty to the future of civilization to participate in this creation. All of them use their personal childhood experience and exploit humanity’s heritage to form opportunities and attitudes for the future in the present. This makes their activities well-founded but hides dangers of reproduction the obsolete. So, what are the roles and responsibilities for us?
Authors extend their textbooks with digital means and resources for mastering of knowledge and competences of 21st century by augmented students. University professors can prepare future teachers in environments of real schools and kindergartens, accompanied by digital tools to be used there in the near future.
Scientists have the opportunity to study the accelerating processes of the evolution of education and to analyze big data collected at various digital platforms.
The global educational community is becoming a source of experience for critical decisions and direct pedagogical interaction. Geographic and language barriers are eased.
Leaders of society, government and business get the opportunity to realize their vision in a specific project. Digital technologies open up access for the participation of all who support the humanistic ideology in our transforming world.

The scenarios

The Charter is a vision of education for the world that is fast approaching us, some of which is already here. In our opinion, these changes cannot be stemmed. There is an inevitability to them.
If that is accepted, three fundamental educational options stand before us. First, do we anticipate these changes and adjust our educational systems to them with wisdom and deliberation in advance of their becoming dominant?
Second, do we react to them after they increasingly become reality in an attempt, in retrospect, to fit schools to the changes that have already arrived?
Or, third, do we essentially ignore the digital revolution, giving it lip service by using marginal aspects of technology.

The strength of the first option is to have schools usher in the new realities and be integrated into the profound changes that are on their way or are already here, changes that are material and psychological. Its weakness is that we don’t know, in its details, what awaits us. If the best minds in the world can join us on this path, we can join education with our understanding of augmented individuals and communities, thus bringing high level education to our children.
The strength of the second option is that we can feel we are protecting the known and believe we can tweak the educational system to solve local problems that crop up. The weakness of this option is that societal and personal changes will outrun the educational system we have had in place for centuries. The moment we make a change in our educational system, the problem we attempted to solve has evolved where the solution we came up with is fast obsolete.
It is not a big exaggeration to say that today’s mass education and most educational authorities are choosing the third option, saying: “Yes, of course, we invested in school computers, but there is not so much use of it”.

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