Reflections

Are You Prepared for Exponential Growth?

If you’re reading this post, at some point, you’ve likely questioned whether the current educational system is preparing students for their future, but what if we replaced students in this context with educators? We know that some educators are slow to adapt to change, or even actively resist, so what does the future hold for those who hold this mindset?

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I’m betting that you’ve heard the phrase technology is increasing at an exponential rate. If so, did you pause to consider what this means for the work we do as educators? I have, many times, and a recent tweet from TVDSB VP Matthew Bradacs had me reflecting once again about the implications for the teaching profession in a world that is moving forward with ever-increasing speed.

Bradacs mentions the exponential growth of the internet in his tweet, but I think he would agree that this growth isn’t explicit to the internet. From the speed of processors in our mobile devices, to the explosion of tasks that we are farming out to artificial intelligence, we are witnessing exponential growth with all technologies that pervade our lives. If you need proof, look no further than this very recent demonstration of Google Duplex, a feature coming to Google Assistant.

These emerging technologies will no doubt have significant impacts on education, but it’s not it’s not the technologies, it’s the rate of progress that will prove to be the most significant disruptor if we remain naive to implications of such rapid change.

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-3-03-46-pm_orig
Linear Vs. Exponential Growth

Visualize a straight line gradually ascending from the bottom-left corner of a graph as it makes its way to the right. (See the red line in diagram.) This line depicts linear growth over time; it doesn’t depict exponential growth. Replace this line with one that moves from the bottom-left, begins ascending, and then curves sharply upwards toward the top of the graph. (See the blue line in diagram.)

 

What implications does exponential growth have for educators? Bottom line: If you have trouble keeping up with the pace of change now, or actively resist change, this will present more significant barriers with each passing year. Consider, I am not talking about marginal changes from year to year, but increasingly significant changes with ever shorter gaps between iterations. Things will get faster, faster, and the divide that is already well established between the experiences students have “in the real world” vs. the experiences they have at school will grow more distinct with each passing year. 

It’s going to be more important than ever for educators to keep their finger on the pulse, and ear to the ground with regard to trends and emerging technologies. This is especially true for those not on the front lines with students on a daily basis. It’s easy to fall behind if you’re not a classroom teacher. I know. I’m writing this from experience. I’ve been out of the classroom for nearly 3 years, and as a result possess only a superficial (maybe I’m being a little hard on myself) understanding of some of these trends and emerging technologies. When I return to the classroom, I will have some catching up to do for my own comfort level. 

Exponential growth will necessitate a dramatic shift in educator mindset. The rate of change will be so rapid that it will involve constant learning, unlearning, and relearning. Further, it won’t simply be enough to embrace change, educators will need to thrive in this environment.

Exponential growth will necessitate a dramatic shift in educator mindset. The rate of change will be so rapid that it will involve constant learning, unlearning, and relearning.

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