FUTURE OF WORK #2 INTERVIEW | 5 RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS
You might have heard of Pearson, the ‘world’s learning company’ with a mere 32,000 employees. But what you probably haven’t heard of, is Future Technologies, their specialized program within the Advanced Computing and Data Science Lab (aka “The Lab”).
This week, we were lucky enough to be joined by Denis Hurley, Director of Future Technologies at Pearson. We explored digital citizenship, future-proof skills and the role that cutting-edge technologies should play in augmenting education.
1. Thanks for joining us, Denis. Perhaps you could start by explaining what you’re working on at present?
I’m running a research project on digital citizenship. It’s essential for people of all ages.
Think of it this way: We’ve had to adapt to using new technologies since the discovery of fire. That’s a good technology to employ as an example: we can use fire for personal improvement (like cooking) or to advance our societies (like using it to power other technologies).
Or we can misuse it and cause great harm to people and nature. With different use cases, I could say the same things about AI. Or robotics. Obviously, the changes are coming much more quickly and in greater number.
Digital citizenship is about understanding how to use all of these technologies properly and how to adapt to new ones as they develop.
Most of us didn’t learn this in school, so we all need to learn it. Adults, for our own sake, as well as to set an example for younger generations who are largely figuring it out for themselves at the moment.
2. Many schools are beginning to teach programming, while others focus on more fostering creativity. Which future-proof skills do you believe students should be acquiring?
You’ve probably heard people talking about “soft skills” or “21st-century skills.” I think “human skills” is more appropriate.
Many of these skills are very hard to learn and yet, many of them aren’t new to the 21st-century.
Creativity, curiosity, and collaboration are just a few examples of “human skills.”
Teaching them shouldn’t be separate from teaching programming. Programming and other aspects of STEM can and should be used to teach these skills, and these skills will improve students’ programming.
3. Pearson recently partnered with IBM Watson. How do you view emergent technologies and the role they can play in education?
These technologies help students and teachers alike. For students, they can better help guide their learning experience through personalized learning.
For teachers, they can help teachers focus on what they do best. These are assistive technologies.
4. The Future Technologies program has produced over 40 prototypes. Which product are you most proud of?
That’s a tough one. When the first development kit for Oculus Rift virtual reality came out, we worked with our clinical team to build a VR tool to help bullied kids learn peacemaking skills.
The student would experience the bullying first-hand. Since it’s immersive, it feels real. The response from students, teachers, and parents was overwhelmingly positive. It demonstrated how beneficial a new technology can be.
5. What’s your vision for the Future of Work?
Returning to the idea of human skills, finding rewarding work (whatever you define as rewarding) will rely on being able to work well with machines and other people.
Problem-solving, flexibility, digital skills are critical.
But for most people, lifelong learning will be essential. It’s not about getting into a role and sticking with it to retirement. You’re going to have to continuously evolve.