Is "futurecation" education's answer to duffins?

16th October 2013 at 17:20

Forget twerking. The real surprise trend of 2013 has been composite words. There was the cronut, the hybrid croissant-doughnut developed in New York. The duffin, a doughnut-muffin, made a similar impact in London baking circles. And then there were jeggings: a cross between jeans and leggings.

And now composite words have made it to education.

Is the education you offer technologically enhanced? Does it embrace the wired world, accepting that this is now as important to students as reading and writing were in the past? In that case, you are a future•cator, providing children with a future•cation.

Future•cation is a neologism pioneered by speaker and writer Marc Prensky, who claims to have previously coined the phrase “digital natives” to refer to the generation of children brought up with technology.

“I suggest every school and teacher adopt future•cation as one of their primary goals,” Mr Prensky said. “If someone asks, ‘what do you do here?’ the answer is, ‘we don’t just educate – we future•cate.’

“Future•cation means consciously rebalancing our education away from being only past-orientated to being far more future-orientated than it is today.”

Mr Prensky, who holds master’s degree in teaching from Yale and has taught in US primary and secondary schools, says that he hopes to create a new linguistic shorthand. The single word, future•cation, will quickly and easily convey what it is that today’s teachers should be doing. (It is not entirely clear what purpose the dot between “future” and “cation” serves. Possibly it is a reminder that the future is a bullet-pointed PowerPoint display.)

The opposite of future•cation, meanwhile, is past-ucation. (See? The hyphen is the way of the longhand past.) “Past-ucation is continuing to do things in only the old ways,” Mr Prensky said. “It’s continuing to value the old over the new, rather than trying to seriously rebalance for the world of tomorrow.”

His six-year-old son, he says, recently had a “past-ucator”. The teacher was uncomfortable with technology, and therefore marginalised it: the four computers in her classroom were rarely turned on. Traditionally essay-writing was favoured over PowerPoint graphics.

As a result, his son announced that using Siri for homework research was “cheating”, and that Wikipedia was full of “lies”.

“The worst part about past-ucation is that past-ucators’ biases are communicated every day, consciously and unconsciously,” Mr Prensky said. “The more we rely on past-ucation – and that includes new ways to do old stuff – the less we are preparing our kids for their future, and the more we are handicapping them.”

In 2001, Mr Prensky published a book, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, which discussed the divide between children born into a technological world, and their parents, who have had to adapt to it.

He believes that his latest coinages have identified a similar split in society. “A useful way to evaluate anything we do is to ask ourselves, ‘is this future•cation?’” he said. “Or is it past-ucation? Almost all of us can tell the difference.”


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