Before We Shake Hands: Representation and the Global Future of Education (Kio Global presentation at the African Resources and Technology in Education show, Nigeria, March 2013)
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Before We Shake Hands: Representation and the Global Future of Education (Kio Global presentation at the African Resources and Technology in Education show, Nigeria, March 2013)

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A lot passes between people before they ever shake hands and meet properly. In the digital age, we have the ability to find out about a thing before we ever encounter it. Many people we ‘know’......

A lot passes between people before they ever shake hands and meet properly. In the digital age, we have the ability to find out about a thing before we ever encounter it. Many people we ‘know’ about, we will never shake hands with. So, representation becomes very important: how things are represented in the media and in our education.

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  • 1. Before We Shake Hands: Representation and the Global Future of Educationby Chimaechi OcheiFounding Director of Kio GlobalA lot passes between people before they ever shake hands and meet properly. In thedigital age, we have the ability to find out about a thing before we ever encounter it.Many people we ‘know’ about, we will never shake hands with. So, representationbecomes very important: how things are represented in the media and in oureducation.I’ve set myself a huge task – education, globalisation and digitisation – but I’ll break itdown into these steps:1) Growing up in the digital age2) The skills needed to navigate it3) Teaching and learning those skills in class4) Nigeria’s place in the future of educationGrowing Up in the Digital AgeThey say a picture is worth a thousand words. But what if you have a thousand pictures?One of the hallmarks of the digital age is that we and our children are constantlysurrounded by images and text from:• marketing – adverts, packaging, web ads, brand logos• entertainment – films, videos, magazines, websites and books• information sources – TV, news websites, newspapers• social life – photos, videos and memes on social networks, and• education – books and resources we use for school.
  • 2. Another is that we are more likely than ever to be exposed to previously inaccessiblecultures, individuals and opportunities. You have access to nearly every other culture andgroup, and they all have access to yours. Thus, we are all part of a global phenomenon.Further, we are all touched by global problems. Have you noticed how local problemstend to overlap strongly with global problems? People mishandling financial marketsin one part of the world affects almost the entirety of global trading. Peopleirresponsibly burning a high volume of non-renewable energies in one part of theworld changes the global ecology and affects farming prospects in other, far-flungplaces. An armed, disenfranchised group of people in one place can halt or changetransit conditions for every international journey.If there are global problems, education – which, in part, is passing on solutions, andequipping young minds to create solutions – needs to be global in outlook too.A third hallmark of growing up in the digital age is that peoples all over the world areso much more likely to meet. We form digital relationships, and these can be globaltoo. But we are perhaps less likely than ever to shake hands with the many digital /global acquaintances we have. We meet through:• Global economics: You make products that I buy, or I make products you buy.• Global online villages: You and I enjoy the same specialist interest group online.• Global information: I read about you online.So this is the world our nursery, primary and secondary students are growing up in.Let’s pause here for a moment. Consider and reflect that the children enrolling in primaryschool this year will retire around 2078. How on earth do we prepare them for that?The Skills Needed to Navigate ItThe burden of education is no longer to give access to facts. The digital age promotesuniversal access to facts through the Internet. Good education encourages and enablesanalysis.I work with the Oxbridge Mentoring Scheme as a mentor to students who are
  • 3. preparing for the Oxbridge application process. One tip from this scheme is that it’snot about repeating what you’ve read in an interview. If you tell a specialist in theirfield only what you’ve read in it, it will add little to them. (Chances are they’ve read it,they wrote it, or they know the person who did.) What they want to see is yourunderstanding of what you’ve read. You may not even be ‘correct’, but if you canarticulate a logical hypothesis on how what you’ve read came about, what alternativeconclusions there may be, or what future projections there may be, you are showing anunderstanding of it. You are adding something unique. You are learning.Sound theoretical? Let’s see how these skills are practiced in various fields.How things come to be: In Law, students learn to seek out precedents in order to helpthem understand how contemporary law evolved and to help make successful futurecases.Analysis and interpretation: In Mathematics, students learn that data can be presented ina variety of statistical forms, and that each statistic can be interpreted in a number ofways. Collecting data (the ‘facts’) isn’t even half the battle.Future projections and alternatives: Economics students rely heavily on models andpatterns of supply and demand and to create future projections. They can isolatevariables within these models to check for alternative outcomes.Education can prepare us for this global, digital age by teaching:• Not only what is shown, but how is it shown; how may it have come to be?• Not only facts, but analysis and interpretation• Not only how things are, but conceiving of alternatives and future projectionsTeaching and Learning These Skills in ClassFor the rest of the session we will put these skills and knowledge into practice.[Slide 7 – How are books made?:An artist has an idea > communicates the idea to an agent or editor > editorial and
  • 4. design deal with the details > publicity spread the word > sales handle deliverylogistics]We are going to make biographies.[Slide 9-11 - What is a biography? What does it include?]Pair off, you’re going to interview one another and write one another’s biographies.Find out how they came to be where they are now.[A few Pulizer Prize-winning drafts later…]Nigeria’s Place in the Future of EducationNow we’ve learned a little bit about how tricky it is to do someone else’s story justice,and how it feels to tell our own story. I wonder about Nigeria’s story. How will itcontinue? When I last came in 2008, I was shocked to find a children’s bookshop inIkoyi, Lagos that had no books that reflected its local audience in culture, images orlanguages. At the time, I was working to publish a multicultural list of books atRandom House, in order to meet similar challenges in the UK. It felt, then, likeNigeria’s story had someone else’s name on the front. If you don’t tell your own story,someone else will.You’re in a unique position: Nigeria could set a pattern for much of the world, as somany nations’ economic, agricultural and cultural experiences are represented in thisone nation:• Nigeria’s people are citizens of the world, with one of the most prolific, successfuland domestically-oriented diasporas.• Nigeria is a combination of developed and developing. While I can use my phonein Nigeria to access digital services that I can’t get in the UK, Nigerian publictransport is probably best described as ‘at own risk’.• Nigeria is multicultural and multilingual, with children growing up exposed toseveral ways of life.
  • 5. • Nigeria is enterprising – you can’t afford not to think big.• Nigeria offers rich natural resources and various climates.• Nigeria is a combination of traditional and modern, with the roles of womenspanning the full gamut.• Nigeria is always on the world stage - for good or ill, fashion or fraud, Nigeria isperpetually in the spotlight.This is a country well-positioned to lead in designing a globally relevant educationsystem. Like you, I am now in the spotlight. You can still see what I do, even if I forgetyou’re watching.Thank you for listening.Chimaechi Ochei © March 2013