The day dawns with clear skies, the birds herald the new day and the sun come shining through Michelangelo’s bedroom window, bringing good news for this 2030 August week in the city of São Paulo. He has just received a message confirming the meeting with Secretary of Education this afternoon. Michelangelo is 18 years old, and since he joined the Urban Agriculture Program of Edutopia, a higher education network that integrates over 100 countries, Michelangelo has been pretty busy in his daily life, unaware of time going by, just because he pleasantly enjoys every moment of learning.
His name, Michelangelo, is a tribute his parents paid to the 15th century Renaissance genius, the golden era of human creation. In the old Renaissance, only privileged artists due to their intellectual and economic condition could stand out for the beauty and perfection of their productions. Today, the opportunity is there for all people. We live in the Post-Renascence age: there are no restrictions for ordinary people to create beauty, and artifacts and technologies with mastery, and this time, on a large scale.
Michelangelo, just like the young people of his generation, lives the golden era of education digitalization. He is able to learn everywhere, at any time. The face-to-face, the virtual, or the combination of the two, the here and now, are all aspects of this new education that Edutopia, the school that combines digital platforms and classroom spaces, has adopted. In addition, you can choose contents and courses you want to attend, and the preferred learning system with free access to new media, the micronets, the MOOCs (Mobile Open Online Courses) which have been expanding their potential since their beginning, in 2014.
The values that guide this new education were influenced by ancient thinkers like Socrates and Aristotle, who believed in education as a means to prepare people to live in society. Today, everyone is entitled to an education that prepares people for the world. Society is far more prepared than it was 15 years ago, ready to find answers to social, environmental and economic challenges.
Michelangelo was born digital, integrated in mind and body to a heavily technological educational environment. A young entrepreneur of the 4.0 Industry, he had since birth, access to revolutionary technologies such as 3D printers, robotics and artificial intelligence systems.
The great education revolution started when many experts and schools tried to answer the following question: How to to teach something to a generation of children who have never lived without the Internet? When Michelangelo was born, education was undergoing its worst crisis. Extremely high rates of truancy, students had no interest in staying in the classrooms, and they were always uncompromised with their responsibilities and duties. Teachers were no longer succeeding in capturing the attention of these young people, who were disappointed by the educational system but otherwise active, dynamic, multifunctional and multi-connected.
Among the several innovations around the world, came the Edutopia and many other academic initiatives in line with this new reality. The Edutopia was born out of the inspiration of an online community created in the beginning of the century by the George Lucas Foundation, famous film director and devotee of elementary school innovation.
Michelangelo prepares for the meeting about to happen in one of the Edutopia schools that spread out through several cities in Latin America. He will introduce the Agropolis – a vertical farming project with a great production potential. Before the meeting, by morning, he must see his mentor (present definition of the word teacher) for the final adjustments in the project, and he insists in engaging his great-grandfather, who at the age of 82 is still in full activity as a renowned agronomist who despite being contributing as an expert, has learned new agricultural techniques and concepts with his grandson.
In this Neo-Renaissance age, cooperative education programs with educational institutions, companies and Government gencies are started in social media by bringing together students, teachers/mentors, family, administrators, and consultants to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the UN in 2012 during the World Summit Rio + 20. In the case of Agropolis, the proposition is to support SDGs Number 2 which is "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”.
Agropolis is a vertical farming program. Michelangelo prepares the presentation while remembering that the first world’s commercial vertical farm was opened in Singapore in 2012. Today, in 2030, there are over 10,000 in Latin America, and the region is the current world economic center of this activity. He strives to enhance the true concept of Agropolis, which is a fully automated intelligent agriculture program for the Internet of things. This kind of Agriculture began to develop in Mexico 15 years ago, with tomato crops. Since the early experiences, through the use of affordable sensors, simple to install and capable of offering a comprehensive data base for the maintenance of soil and crops health, in addition to storage conditions and low energy consumption, smart Agriculture launched a new era in Latin American economy.
He summons his mentor and great-grandfather, and suggests they meet at Hub Cosmos, close to their home. Arriving at the Hub Cosmos, that integrates information systems which give access to hundreds of digital libraries from all continents, his mentor recommends that some data be updated. Instantly, they access the system and its resources. Before defining the settings they were almost 1 hour doing simulations and interacting with five major global networks working with smart vertical farming. Some adjustments were necessary. Done! Now Michelangelo feels a lot more certain of what he will present.
It is time for the meeting in one of the rooms reserved for the event. The Secretary of State and his team arrive at the meeting, and introduce themselves. Before Michelangelo starts his presentation, the Director of Edutopia makes an extensive presentation of the Learning Center, a world reference in new learning systems. Edutopia represents in 2030 what they envisioned 20 years ago as the School of the future. The team takes note of everything being presented and everyone is very impressed with the main features of this new education.
Educators rethought the whole model of education in force and they redesigned it with a student-focus mind. The Designers involved came up with stimulating environments through videogames that broke up the classrooms drudgery. It takes less time to complete the education programs, due to online modules compensation. The program contents are flexible and laid out by the student, according to their different learning style. Instead of homework and research, the mentor (formerly teacher) agrees with the students the skills they must demonstrate to get the job done. Settled the agreement, the student is given autonomy to decide what to do, how to do and also what to search for, within the context of the chosen content, The approach has become to focus on search and managing the information, in place of what used to be only instruction.
What once was the first wave of content with online access to digital libraries, open innovation platforms and learning networks, has been enhanced by the second wave of connections involving integrated activities among Governments, schools, communities and businesses. Educators, mentors, parents, students, managers, entrepreneurs, all of them are integrated in social media especially designed for education. Cooperative education programs with international institutions, implementing flexible programmes with the option of online learning. Since 2016, collaborative experiences have driven different school formats through interactive whiteboards and mobile videoconferencing systems, which have become more and more reliable and affordable.
In this new environment, the teacher no longer perform the role of knowledge transmitter, but rather takes on the role of mentor that enables their students to judge and understand the diversity of knowledge that are offered them. The word "teacher" is now outdated. The Edutopia uses the "mentor" concept, who exerts the broader function of educator, responsible not only for academic content, as well as for the transmission of ethical and moral principles and values. Edutopia is an important channel for coexistence and learning that integrates parents, mentors and students to provide a panoramic education and extend the educational responsibilities of the school. Edutopia is not a disciplinary institution with macropowers dictated from top to bottom (as in any other institution). Its model establishes micro-powers that consider the horizontal management of the teaching, in addition to promoting collaborative crossover among different kinds of institutions: governmental, scientific, social, religious, Community, and business.
The revolution of prosumers and expansion of "makers", "author-consumers", and "do-it-yourself" movements among others, was strengthened by the widespread use of 3D printers in the classrooms, with emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. Practices that previously used Lego blocks, are deploying inexpensive 3D printers today, affordable to almost everyone, allowing the construction of their own Lego blocks, school utensils, human body modeling, tools, and even food. Edutopia stands out through the technology classes and promotes car model contests, built by the students themselves. Learning and fun are but one thing.
Advances in technology continue to change teaching approaches for the educator. Interactive whiteboards, and integrated conference systems which have spread out since 2015, causing a revolution in education, have become points of holographic Telepresence, to bring participants and remote locations for the 3D class. In classrooms, tools like those ones are typically being used to include remote students, teachers or guests in the classroom as participants, taking the remote collaboration experience to another level. With so many features and facilities available, students feel able to assimilate complex concepts in a ludic and interactive way. This facilitates the learning of content in various disciplines. In history class, for example, replicas of objects used by civilizations from different eras can be produced. In geography, the printers produce topographic models of the studied regions. In biology, they replace dissected animals with perfect copies containing organs, tissues and cells printed with precision and detail.
NBIC technologies (Nano-Bio-Info-Cogni) convergence has conquered Edutopia. NBIC’s new learning system employs robots-monitoring – or aides -, holograms video conferencing systems, cloud printing, virtual labs, augmented reality, mobile artificial intelligence, 3D/4D printing and individualized education with simulators and games. The old digital interactive whiteboards have been replaced with holographic tele-presence systems, integrating online and on-campus classroom between students, mentors, and schools from different points of the planet, all of them interacting in 3D.
Virtual reality played a key role in this new model evolution, which were true miracles in the past. For example, when preparing for this afternoon meeting, Michelangelo picks up one of his biology books, with an image of planet Earth on it. Then, he puts on a pair of special glasses and the three-dimensional images jump to his eyes as if they were real. He looks at the illustration of a wheat seeds crop, and instead of seeing a simple, flat image, he watches various forms of relief, the ground, seeds and leaves textures. In addition, he has the option of looking at a cross section of the seed in several layers to study it with precision. Augmented reality made it all possible today.
But those “technological miracles" are not exclusive privileges for those who live in the big cities. Edutopia, offers all these possibilities to country students through its online learning network, such as a group of Peru country inhabitants who live 100 km+ far from the Capital, Lima, who occasionally spend a day visiting a history Museum. There are no buses to take them anywhere. Each one receives a pair of VR headphones instead, which enables them to take a virtual tour through the Museum, paginate books, attend presentations held by experts and display any picture they want from any angle.
By spreading out to every school in the world an effective technological convergence such as the one adopted by Edutopia, you can enlarge to epitome the values of a future-oriented education, based on the following grounds: active engagement of students, collective participation involving different knowledge and age groups, constant feedback and interaction, as well as a connection with real world experts.
After getting acquainted with the educational revolution of Edutopia, everyone is delighted and stimulated by what they have just met. Proud to be a part of this revolution, Michelangelo then begins to present his Agropolis project. At the end of his presentation, among the various aspects praised by the participants, the most outstanding was the collective intelligence system based on virtual reality, which allows hundreds of urban farmers to interact and share experiences and solutions between countries and cities. After the presentation, Edutopia’s Director, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Presidents of two seed companies signed a cooperation protocol establishing the implementation of Agropolis in all major residential condos and schools in the State of São Paulo in Brazil. To coordinate this project in partnership with his great-grandfather, Michelangelo will be paid as for the terms of the public-private agreement.
Feeling very happy but tired, Michelangelo takes 2 Revix caps, a nootropic compound that improves brain capacity and enhances neural systems. Revix is an enhanced drug that during the decade of 10 was used in some innovation centers such as Silicon Valley. Today it is widely distributed though drugstore networks.
Feeling fully realized with the resonance his project has obtained this August 2030 afternoon, Michelangelo can't resist to quickly share everything that's been happening with your friends and his social networks. He is aware that more important than his brain power is the community of all other brains tuned in the same purpose, and what is even more powerful than all brains being connected, is the hearts beating all together in emotion and joy because they feel that another world is possible and is increasingly close.
Rosa Alegria : A professional Futurist for almost 20 years, trends researcher, facilitator of innovation processes. Master in Studies of The Future by Houston University, USA. Vice-President of NEF - Núcleo de Estudos do Futuro (Center for Studies of the Future) of PUC-SP and Director of the Brazilian group for the Millennium Project, the world's largest network of researchers on the future. Author of several studies, Rosa Alegria is among the 3 most important futurists of Latin America.