ISTE 2016: Michio Kaku Says Education Needs a Revolution

The theoretical physicist says a fourth wave of technology is about to begin, and educators must prepare students to thrive in the new landscape.

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku warmed up the packed auditorium Sunday evening by cracking wise with a few science-related pop culture references.

For instance, if you travel back in time and your mother falls in love with you, “you’re in deep doo doo,” Kaku joked, referencing the film, “Back to the Future.”

The future — and education’s role in it — was a major theme of Kaku’s opening keynote address, which kicked off the annual International Society for Technology in Education conference in Denver.

“We don’t live in 1950 anymore,” Kaku said. “We need to undergo a revolution in how we view education.”

Kaku, who is also a bestselling author and futurist, said the nagging question on many people’s minds today is the economy and income inequality, and it can be tied to education.

“Jobs of the future will require creativity, imagination and experience,” he said. “We have to prepare young people to live in that future.”

There have been three major waves of technology: steam power and locomotive, electricity and automobile, and high tech, Kaku said. We are about to enter a fourth wave — biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence — that will drive the economy, he said.

How should educators respond when computers become part of the wallpaper and Internet-enabled contact lenses make information accessible at the blink of an eye?

“You have a duty to teach young people, the generators of wealth in the future,” he said. “The future of education will gradually be changed. This means that educators are going to have to stress concepts and principles, rather than the drudgery of memorization.”

Michio Kaku addresses educators in the Colorado Convention Center.

That statement was met with supportive applause and cheering from the audience.

Kerry Gallagher, digital learning specialist at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Mass., is one educator who is doing that. Gallagher was invited to give her Ignite session talk at the ISTE opening session “How to Eliminate Textbooks, Paper, and Tests.”

Gallagher shared stories of how her students collaborated, published their work online together and learned along the way.

One student wrote a well-researched blog post about the women’s movement and ended up using a link to it in a Facebook debate on gender stereotypes.

Some of Gallagher’s students have had online work picked up by other sites, which has been a thrill for them, she said.

“I don’t just want my students to learn,” she said. “I want them to want to learn.”

The ISTE conference boasts 14,000 attendees, representing all 50 states and 71 countries, according to emcees Brian Lewis and Kecia Ray, ISTE CEO and ISTE board member, respectively.

Catch all of EdTech’s coverage of ISTE 2016, including articles and video interviews, by visiting our official conference landing page.

Jeff Turner/Flickr
Jun 27 2016