Saturday, July 28, 2007

Literacies for the networked society

I've been working for years on various iterations of a piece that should describe how the paradigm shift we're living through calls for a rethinking of the skills that we need - and thus also points to the need to rethink our educational curriculum.
So, I've put the latest version on my website - and yes, it's long: 20 pages, but I actually think it is important stuff.
Here's an excerpt, from the beginning:

Society is making its way through a profound change. We are leaving the industrial age and entering a new paradigm - one which we could name the network society.
The main characteristic of this is connectivity. Humans, machines, cultures and economies are connected ever closer, more often, in more detail and across greater distances. Developments in completely different realms are increasingly influencing and interfering with each other.
Acceleration is another characteristic. As each new technical development helps us taking the next step even faster even change itself is accelerating.

The network society offers us countless new opportunities - but at the same time it confronts us with a demand for new competences. Clearly, the type of work that we will be making our living from in a globally connected hi-tech world will be very different from the work which our welfare society was built upon.
We need a new approach, one that's suitable for the new rules of the game. We need a different perception of the mechanisms which drive change - and we need to weed out old concepts and structures that have become irrelevant and which often end up as barriers to necessary change.
All of this implies a deep cultural shift in attitude and understanding of learning, innovation and action - a shift that's needed all the way from kindergartens to retirees.

In primary schools one uses the term ”literacies”, to describe the basic skills that are necessary in order to get by in society. In Denmark the law emphasizes 5 literacies: reading, writing, math, English as second language, and basic IT skills. If you lack one or more of these, you will experience that the doors to further learning are shut.
But what's considered basic literacies obviously changes as the conditions in society change. As we shift from the industrial society to a networked society we will need to acquire a number of new, basic competences to supplement the old literacies.

Put briefly, these new competencies are about understanding the way in which globally connected, complex, dynamic systems work. The internet, international politics, stock markets, or living systems, like our body… These are the sort of complex systems that we need to engage with, and our future welfare will depend on our ability to do so in smart ways.
We will need a completely internalized understanding of the mechanisms that drive such systems. At the moment it may sound very abstract, but concepts like evolution, non-linearity, feedback, self organization and ecology will increasingly be crucial to us in order to asses situations correctly and to act intelligently in relation to the forces that shape our circumstances.

1 comment:

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