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Technology and education – a match made in heaven

19 May 20160 comments

When 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani was trying to think of ways to cut waste and save money at his Pittsburgh school, he never dreamt that his idea would become a global case study in behavioural change and imaginative thinking.

But when his scheme, outlined in a letter to the government, became public, it went viral.

“Dear US, I can save you $400 million,” Suvir wrote.

As part of a science project, he had analysed his school’s ink and font usage and came to the realization that ink consumption could be cut 24 per cent by switching fonts from Times New Roman to Garamond.

Michael went on to publish a study in the Journal for Emerging Investigators, which showed that a similar switch nationally could cut the federal government’s annual ink budget by $467 million.

Hamish Curry

Hamish Curry

The story is used by Hamish Curry, a consultant with creative education consultants Notosh as an example of how, in a rapidly changing technological world, we need to harness the human imagination.

Mr Curry says technology could and should play an intrinsic role in education and learning and being literate in new technology will be vital in the jobs of the future.

Speaking at the City of Wyndham annual Education Week Breakfast this week, Mr Curry said technology could help with learning through its capacity to find or identify problems, find patterns in data related to those problems and then solve the problem.

“Learning is culturally different almost everywhere and it is based on a range of different things,” he said.

“So, we need to ask ourselves and understand what our culture does to encourage learning,” Mr Curry said.

But he said people sometimes naively believed technology could solve all our problems when sometimes it raises other problems.

“This means we need to investigate prototype problem solving – which means that we need to commit to finding a solution and making things better even though there might be failures along way,” Mr Curry said.

He said that humanity had always envisioned a world where we are better connected.

“A precursor for all good technology and innovation is imagination and at school there is not always enough time for kids to use their imagination,” Mr Curry said.

“Adults are good at complex critical thinking; children are good at simple creative thinking.

As well Suvir Mirchandani’s ink saving idea, Mr Curry cited the ‘Socket’ as another stunning example of innovative young thinking.

An energy-harnessing soccer ball, the ‘Socket’ provides electricity to households with no power.

Created by two female Harvard undergraduates, it stores kinetic energy from being kicked around for later use as a portable power source in resource-poor areas of young people.

“What this shows is a growth mindset that is adaptive and has used existing skillsets, intuition and an explorative approach to a problem,” Mr Curry said.

But he said the current fixation with ‘growth’ mindsets in educational philosophy needed to be tempered by the recognition of the importance of a ‘fixed’ mindset.

“We need to remember that when things go wrong a fixed mindset can be an asset. It means that people know what to do and how to cope,” he said.

He said these examples also showed technology was a great tool in encouraging people to use their imagination.

“Currently education is something that is done to people not with them,” Mr Curry said.

“Instead of preparing people for a world of work, we would be better off preparing them for a world of networking,” he said.

Mr Curry said for everyone, but particularly children, technology was now important in fostering imagination, communication, experimentation and exploration.

“Technology is now largely how kids do these things – it is one of the mixture of mediums we now have at our disposal in networking and in connecting with the world.”

But, almost as a postscript, Mr Curry warned that technology tools were “very good at filling our time” – even if they were not solving a problem.

“Like everything else, the key is moderation. Technology is a fantastic learning and problem solving tool, but it’s not the only thing in life,” he said.

The education breakfast was hosted by Wyndham’s Employment, Education and Training Committee.

Wyndham’s Coordinator of Community Learning, Diane Tabbagh said that innovation in education was critical to the success of communities into the future.

“Here in Wyndham we have a fast growing population and we understand that technology will be at the centre of our community’s development,” Ms Tabbagh said.

Notosh is an Edinburgh-based consultancy working with schools and organisations to design creative learning strategies.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist