Why 21st Oct 2015 is significant for Learning Dispositions

The 21st of October 2015 is a significant date for many of us who watched Sci-fi films in the late 1980s.

It is the date of the future in the film ‘Back to the Future 2’ that Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) goes forward to, and is amazed by, the way the world has changed in 2015. There are an impressive array of concepts that the film got spot on:

  • Giant, split screen TVs
  • Computer games operated by the player (think Kinect)
  • Video phone conferencing
  • 3D films
  • Handheld devices where you can sign a petition (think your tablet and online petitions)
  • Biometrics as security
  • Exercising at your desk (think ‘standing’ tables)
  • Google glasses

Some of these might be a little predictable – we would expect TV technology and gaming technology to move on – but others are more unpredictable and rely on technology or a change in society that we couldn’t possibly have known about 30 years ago.

Coincidentally, I was asked this week about children under the age of three using tablets and the benefits of this. Who would’ve imagined that we would be discussing the efficacy of babies using computers 30 years ago?

I know there are many arguments for excluding screen technology of any sort for very young children, and I would agree that tablets and ipads are no replacement for many of the rich sensory experiences that children should be having. However, this may be a good time to reflect on what we are giving our children and how these are preparing them for their future – whatever that may be.

It is so much more important to focus on learning dispositions, attitudes and critical thinking skills rather than (the more easily measurable) ‘reading, writing, arithmetic’. Being able to read is great – but isn’t it better to want to pick up a book, explore the language and be inspired by its ideas? To do this, children must have a sense of self motivation, a can-do attitude, criticality of thought, resilience and self-esteem.

If we can instil the motivation to learn, explore and enquire, then children will be much better equipped to approach new challenges.

If we can teach children that they CAN do, then they will be more willing to persevere and overcome obstacles that they will undoubtedly come across.

If we can encourage children to think critically and question, then they will discover a much more interesting world.

If we can foster resilience, then they will be more able to bounce back from set backs.

If we can give children good self-esteem and good self-confidence, then they will go into the unknown assertively.

We need to focus on giving children the dispositions and attitudes to face their own challenges for a world that we can only guess at. And hope that they invent self-tying shoe laces in the very near future…

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