Education must adapt, Google speaker says

Sharon Fisher//May 25, 2018

Education must adapt, Google speaker says

Sharon Fisher//May 25, 2018

photo of virtual reality devices
Attendees at the Idaho Virtual Reality Council meeting experimented with VR for education. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Education will need to change to provide the types of jobs that future employers will need, according to Google’s education policy expert.

Jaime Casap, chief education evangelist for Google, was brought in on May 23 by the Idaho Virtual Reality Council to speak to its membership, said Annie Morley, president of the group, which is intended to help the virtual reality/augmented reality development community in Idaho.

photo of jaime casap
Jaime Casap. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Schools need to prepare children for what Casap called the “digitalization economy,” which includes virtual reality, augmented reality, computers, and other technological components. “The language of this new economy is computer science,” he said, noting that Idaho already has 1,491 open computer science jobs today – three times the demand of other jobs. Idaho colleges graduate something over 300 people each year, and only 19 Idaho high schools offer college-level computer science classes, he said.

Some jobs common today, such as store clerks and transportation, are likely to change radically in the future due to technology, Casap said. For example, about 4.5 million people make their living today transporting people and merchandise, but within ten years, many of those jobs may be carried out by autonomous vehicles, he said. Similarly, retail jobs are likely to change as scanning technology becomes more automated. Instead of clerks, people working in grocery stores may be dietitians, cooks, and nutritionists wandering the aisles to help shoppers learn how to cook or make meal plans, he said.

photo of augmented reality
Augmented reality “pops up” an image on a smartphone app. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

“There are more people working in banks than when [automated teller machines] were introduced in the 1990s,” Casap said. “They’re just doing different jobs.”

Despite the recent development of new technology, employers say they still need workers with skills in problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and critical thinking, said Casap, citing an Economist Group survey.

To help children prepare, schools must allow children to collaborate more, Casap said. If he turned in a report to his boss without talking to stakeholders, he’d be fired, he noted. “Why are we teaching our kids that collaboration is cheating, when that isn’t the way it works in the real world?”

Virtual and augmented reality can help by making students feel more involved, Casap said. A Google staffer has been on a tour of 49 Idaho schools over the past seven weeks demonstrating its free Google Expeditions technology, which lets teachers develop virtual and augmented reality lessons that run on a smartphone. About 17,000 Idaho schoolchildren had been able to see the technology during the tour, said Paul Zimmerman, technology innovator for the Blaine County School District, who helped facilitate the Google school tour.

For virtual reality, the smartphone clips to an inexpensive but sturdy viewer, which meeting attendees were also able to try out. “They’re tough! Kids use them!” Zimmerman said, as he encouraged attendees to toss the viewers back to him when they were done.

Technology allows children to learn on their own, Casap said, noting that he discovered that his 13-year-old son was using the internet to teach himself how to code. “I work at Google, and he didn’t ask me to teach him,” he said. The internet also helps bridge the inequality gap by giving even low-income children access to information, he added.

Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, Casap said. “It doesn’t make sense anymore,” he said. “Ask them what problem they want to solve. Jobs are being created every day to solve problems.” Then, ask them how they want to solve the problem, and what they think they need to learn to be able to solve that problem. Purpose, autonomy, and mastery drive people, he said.