Some 75 years ago after the end of World War 2, educator Loris Malaguzzi and the community of the village of Regio Emelia decided it was time for a new approach to Early Years and Elementary education. Their approach continues to inspire educators around the world – particularly early years educators. But there have been many before have espoused similar constructivist educational approaches such as John Dewey, Maria Montesorri, Rudolf Steiner and Lev Vigosky to name a few.

The Regio approach is based on principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of children through a self guided curriculum.

It is guided by the philosophy that:

  • Children have control of direction of learning
  • Children learn through experiences
  • Children are competent, creative and curious
  • Children are active role of an apprentice
  • Children have relationships with material world
  • Children are social – each other, people and community

Today we are still in search of new ways of learning with many contemporary thinkers such as Howard Gardner, Tony Wagner, Yong Zhao and Ron Ritchhart reminding us of these same principles and leading us to think about learning in the 21st century. Ken Robinson has challenged millions of us with his YouTube on How Schools Kill Creativity to bring about change in schools to better meet the needs of 21st Century learners. Unfortunately, it always seems to be too hard to make changes in our schools, and we find ourselves continuing to operate with barely modified 19th and 20th Century models.

The digital age has resulted in an emerging new era of civilization world-wide with disruptions that have and are fundamentally changing our lives and societies.

  • Globalization
  • Digitization, Automation
  • Changing World of Employment

P21, The Partnership for 21st Century Learning, have sought to describe the learning and innovation skills are increasingly the skills that separate students who are prepared for increasingly complex life and work environments in the 21st century, and those who are not. They claim that a focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication are critically important and have developed the following list of skills and competencies.

21st Century Skills

  • Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  • Flexibility & Adaptability
  • Initiative & Self Direction
  • Social & Cross Cultural Skills
  • Productivity & Accountability
  • Leadership & Responsibility

To put a more immediate sense of urgency various groups are describing:

2020 Work Skills

  • Sense Making (deeper meaning)
  • Social Intelligence
  • Novel & Adaptive Thinking
  • Computational Thinking

‘The Rise of Machines’ and The Changing World of Work
To add to our challenges, 2014 could be dubbed ‘The Rise of the Machines’ or the beginning of the ‘Second Machine Age’ as described in the book of the same title (2014) by Eric Brynjoffsen and Andrew McAfee –and its sequel, ‘Racing against the Machines” (2016)

Oxford Universities, Professor Michael Osborne’s research from the Machine Learning Research Group, a sub-group of the Robotics Research Group in the Department of Engineering Science, predicts that 47% of jobs in the developed economies will be performed by androids by 2035. He claims that technology is advancing faster than ever, and whilst these new technologies will also generate jobs the burden of vulnerability will fall heavily on the least skilled in the community. His research outlines two characteristics that might protect jobs from the advancement of technology: creativity and social intelligence.

But many point with optimism that exciting new employment opportunities are on the horizon including the ‘Cognizant’ group (2016) which predicts that, ‘People with digital skills, not just machines will power digital innovation’. Brynjolfsson and McAfee suggest that a revamping of education that prepares people for the next economy, ‘designing collaborations that pair brute processing power with human ingenuity make sense in a radically transformed landscape.
There are two schools of thought as to the impact of automation on employment and society, ranging from large scale unemployment including knowledge based jobs, to the more positive view that technology has always been a new creator of both jobs and new types of jobs. Points of agreement to these viewpoints, identified by the Pew Research Center (August, 2014) include that:

  • ‘the education system is doing a poor job of preparing the next generation of workers
  • the concept of work may change significantly in the coming decade
  • technology is not a destiny, we control the future we will inhabit’

It also points out some possibilities about the role of technology:

  • ‘we will work with less drudgery and more leisure time
  • it will free us from the industrial age notion of what a job is
  • we will see a return to uniquely ‘human’ forms of production’

Cognizant (latestthinking.cognizant.com) states that ‘people – not just machines will power digital innovation’ describing businesses using ‘technology in a wave of supercharged innovation that is creating incredible opportunities’. It describes an upper hierarchy of human abilities such as ‘agility, collaboration and innovation’ and states that digital is ‘more about Humans than Machines’ and that businesses will depend on ‘talent pools that can thrive in an increasingly digitized economy’

Finally, they state that ‘people need to stay ahead of the curve, not by being faster or cheaper but by developing, honing and capitalizing on the capabilities that are uniquely human and cannot be replicated today by automated software’.