23 July 2020




What does the future hold?

There are many levels to this question. What does the future hold for the world – in a time of pandemics, crashing oil prices, missions to Mars and arguments about who should be the next James Bond? What does the future hold for South Africa – as I write this, on a dying laptop, in a hot office during load shedding, still getting notifications on my phone about the latest local series on Netflix? What does the future hold for our boys – when being a man means something different from what it used to and for whom Facebook and WhatsApp are already old news? And what does the future hold for our school – as we try to educate children for a world that doesn’t exist and for jobs that haven’t yet been invented?

The future?

It’s very scary.

It’s so exciting!

I was brought up in a world where everything made sense. There was right and wrong and good and evil and nice, simple rules to follow that helped us all get along. Sort of. In theory. You couldn’t watch TV all night because broadcast stopped at midnight (22h00 on Sundays) and you couldn’t turn to YouTube because there was no YouTube… or Google… or the internet. When I did get a computer it only had two games, which didn’t matter because the screen only had two colours, and the closest thing to a mobile phone was a communicator badge on Star Trek.


I did love Star Trek. Not for the photon torpedoes or the warp drive but because every week they engaged that warp drive and went somewhere new and discovered something new; entire new worlds full of culture and invention. The whole point of the Starship Enterprise was about discovery and adding to the breadth and body of human knowledge and experience, to better ourselves as a species. And okay, I lied. The photons and the warp drive were pretty cool too.

We may not be trekking across the Galaxy or using molecular transporters for personal travel but in terms of information communication and information technology, we are actually not far away from what you see in Star Trek.

Between email, Skype, social media and web portals, as long as you have signal, you can be in live communication with anyone in the world, at any time. And this is the world our children are growing up in. A world of virtually infinite connectivity, where friendships and answers are just a click, tap or swipe away. As concerned and caring parents, we tend to focus on the negatives of this situation. We worry about blue light, screen time, pornography, cyber-bullying, instant gratification, information overload and the loss of real human connections. These concerns are real.

But there are so many positives too! Staying in touch with friends and family, never forgetting a birthday, boundless access to information (and reliable too, if you know where to look), music, maps and holiday bookings. Seriously? Is there anyone out there who feels that the world was really a better place before Uber Eats and Takealot? Imagine trying to conduct business without your laptop or tablet, or how you would feel going on a long car journey without your cell phone.




And maybe we forget that this is the world that our children have been born into. It is not new to them, or futuristic, it is just life! Granny may look a bit tired with the time difference but even though she’s in Australia, they see her every other day on Facetime. When they hear the words “Cloud” or “Amazon”, their first thoughts may not be of the sky or the jungle! It is more than possible that a child born in the next 5 years will never know physical cash money, never have to plug in a cable, never need to wait in a queue or ever have to drive themselves.

And so how do we prepare children for the future? A future that will surely be driven by technology. A future where some even envision us merged with nanites, microchips and cybernetic implants. I can hear some of you groan! And yet others…  Star Trek? Anyway, either we draw a line in the sand now and try and find a different path for humanity, or we have to embrace this uncertain and ever-accelerating future. We have to expose children to technology and mentor and guide them in its responsible and effective use. We must do this cautiously and with care and we must, as always seems the case, find the balance.

Spending some time on Facebook isn’t evil, as long as you’re also spending some time not on Facebook! What will you post about if you don’t? Having an iPad in the classroom doesn’t mean you can’t also have books, and corresponding through email has its place, just as talking in person does. Some things are definitely better with technology, but some things certainly are not and teaching this lesson to our children and finding this balance in the classroom and in life, may be the educational challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

What does the future hold? One way or another, we’ll find out.