Future of education: reading, writing; even classrooms, will all go the way of the dinosaurs

April 25 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Education   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

When was the last time you saw fast-food restaurant employees actually key prices into the register? Today, clerks behind the counter press buttons with pictures of cups, burgers, or bags of fries. They never need to read or remember cost of items.

Futurist William Crossman, author of Vivo [Voice-In/Voice-Out]: The Coming Age of Talking Computers, believes that tomorrow’s mobile and virtual reality devices, using visual displays like those in fast-food restaurants, will render reading, writing, and text obsolete in the not-to-distant future.

Crossman explains why this transformation will take place. “Before Homo sapiens ever existed, ancient proto-humans accessed information by speaking, listening, smelling, tasting, and touching. They relied on memory to store information they heard. Speaking and listening was civilization’s preferred method of communication for millions of years.

Then about 10,000 years ago an explosion of information emerged with the onset of the agricultural revolution and memory overload quickly followed. Human memories were no longer efficient and reliable enough to store and share the huge volume of new ideas. To overcome this problem, our forbearers developed a remarkable technology that has lasted for thousands of years – written language.

Written language, with pictographs and alphabets, enabled us to record ideas and information on paper and other materials. It served to extend our human memory, and today, ranks along with food, air and water as one of the most important elements in our lives.”

However, scientists believe that today’s reading and writing technologies will not serve us well in tomorrow’s high-tech world. Oxford University Professor Lady Greenfield suggests traditional learning systems; lectures, exams, and books; even reading and writing, will become obsolete in a society filled with voice-interactive machines and an Internet that could one day store all the world’s information.

Tomorrow’s students will be more comfortable voicing commands to mobile devices and other displays to ask questions, retrieve information, and play music and videos. Searching through books will be considered a waste of time.

Experts believe the following forces will make these changes inevitable: 1) Growing numbers of young people strongly prefer speech over other communication systems. 2) Billions of non-literate citizens around the world with poor reading, writing and language skills want access to information, but most become frustrated in their attempts to get it. 3) Interactive voice systems expected by 2012 will replace most keyboards and remote controls.

Germany’s Infineon Technologies has recently developed a series of chips powerful enough to enable mobile devices to process huge data loads that will be required for future education and entertainment needs.

Traditional input methods of touch screen, keypad, and pen will give in to speech recognition with body movement awareness (recognizing hand gestures and facial expressions through cameras mounted in computer monitors, TVs, and cell phones). Using these enhanced tools as a hub, tomorrow’s “e-Education” systems will connect students to an intelligent assistant via the Internet, which will monitor their progress and contact live advisors if necessary.

Advanced interactive visual display systems will empower people from every country on Earth to understand information regardless of their ability to read or write. Positive futurists believe that this breakthrough could, by as early as mid-century or before, enable more nations to come together technologically and linguistically and participate in what promises to become an amazing “magical future.”

How do you see this futuristic scenario unfolding?

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