Listening to Learn – Higher Education, Learning and Making Us Robot Proof

I’ve been listening to a few interesting discussions this week on learning, higher education and the future. The first interview I listened to was on a podcast/YouTube channel known as the Rubin Report (as a sidenote Mr. Rubin has libertarian learnings and identifies as a classical liberal, which influences his guests and interview style, however the some of the content of this interview is much of what I was interested in).  The interview was with Rajshree Agarwal, the Rudolph P. Lamone Chair and Professor in Entrepreneurship | Director, Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets at the University of Maryland. The biggest takeaway for me professionally from this interview is the learning relationship between professor and student and approaching life through an entrepreneurial, growth and questioning mindset; Rajshree focused very much within the conversation about how she is always open to learn something from her students, and how as a teacher and willing learner, the reciprocal relationship impacts the learning at hand when in college. I really loved this perspective, and although I’m a staff member, I hope to continually keep myself open in this way to be a learner as well as an educator. Watch around 20:36 in order to listen to the section on this particular subject.

Secondly I listened to a great podcast from Boston’s NPR station, they interviewed Northeastern’s  Joseph E. Aoun. He was asking some important questions of higher education and future preparation.  He has a new book out on this very topic called “Robot Proof”. What is higher education doing wrong that has to change is a question asked of Aoun in this interview. He responds with an interesting perspective. As noted in a review of the book in Inside Higher Education, “Our higher education sector, according to Aoun, is not moving fast enough in the face of this large-scale economic change (use of AI) Just as our colleges and universities are finally getting aligned with today’s service-based labor market, we are doing too little to prepare our students for an age of smart machines.

In my own conversation with a friend who works in the legal field, she made a bold, but true predicament in our discussion of this last night, there are certain legal positions that will disappear she presumed, Staing many lawyers just work through paperwork and AI will be able to their job. Criminal justice lawyers will still exist, but others? Maybe not so much. How can we prepare our student’s for this inevitable future?

Aoun is thinking of Northeastern’s future in terms of a “humanics curriculum” which focuses on three literacies – the first is technology literacy, the second is data literacy, and the third is the human literacy – to allow learners to be creative, entrepreneurial and culturally agile. The preparation of these three literacies would be how to become “robot proof”.  In addition to that Aoun focuses both on life-long learning and experiential education; part of our focus in the clusters at Plymouth State is solving “real-world” problems, which is that experiential side of education. We can as employees work on our life-long learning while at the institution, but I’m wondering how this might be futher encouraged and incentivized within our own institution and workforce? I am curious how other institutions may continue to adapt and offer programming knowing that educational expertise is changing and with that how we teach, what we teach, and the systems through which we define teaching will continue to evolve. I’m hoping to read “Robot Proof” soon. I hope you might join me!