Friday, 1 May 2009

Predicting the Future - Howard Gardner

Since we are soon having a workshop on developing our ICT Vision, I want to get my head straight about what some eminent writers are saying about the future.
Howard Gardner, of multiple intelligences fame, has written "5 Minds for the Future". 
This is a far more cerebral approach to thinking about the future and in some ways, less business orientated than others. Gardner uses the word "minds" in a specific way - and not directly connected with any of the multiple intelligences (one of his "minds" may need the application of several of the multiple intelligences).
As he puts it: "the word mind reminds us that actions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all products of our brain. If we want to nurture these capacities or change these perspectives, we will be trafficking in the operation of the mind." (pXV).
The 5 minds can be summarised as follows (this is from pp 18 and 19 and is put very briefly - reading the book is a must to get the complete idea):
DISCIPLINED MIND: individuals without one or more disciplines will not be able to succeed at any demanding workplace and will be restricted to menial tasks.
SYNTHESIZING MIND: individuals without synthesizing capabilities will be overwhelmed by information and unable to make judicious decisions about personal or professional matters.
CREATING MIND: individuals without creating capacities will be replaced by computers and will drive away those who do have the creative spark.
RESPECTFUL MIND: individuals without respect will not be worthy of respect by others and will poison the workplace and the commons.
ETHICAL MIND: individuals without ethics will yield a world devoid of decent workers and responsible citizens: none of us will want to live on that desolate planet.
The conclusions chapter contains a good synopsis (pp 154 to 158).
There are at least two major points arising from this - one is that disciplines would remain as the natural division in schools (note, not subjects) and that synthesis is a skill to be cultivated. 
This would require school students to master history, mathematics, science, and "other key subjects". Gardner rightly points out that students would need to be able to select crucial information from the vast amount available and then synthesise this into ways that make sense for themselves as well as to other.
Other aspects include the importance of creating (posing new questions, producing unexpected but appropriate school products and projects), as well as the need to develop respectful (working effectively with peers, teachers - whatever their background/viewpoint) and ethical minds (striving towards good work and citizenship).
A transcript in note form of Gardner's talk at the Rotman Lifelong Learning Conference, Toronto, June 1, 2007.

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