How does your marketing experience and background in the dotcom and new technology sector influence your view on Education? How does it shape your daily work or actions, as well as your long-term strategy?
I would say that not only my background in the dotcom and new technology influenced me, but the fact that I have lived the transition between the two worlds. I have grown up with one foot in a world of technology and one foot out of it, and so I have developed as it has, in parallel.
Technology clearly helped us, on the other hand we need to be careful with the speed that we have now got accustomed to.
I remember back in the 90s when I listened to the radio and I would rush to record a song I really liked, so I could listen to it again. I knew all the songs’ and groups’ names by heart, as it really required a lot of work to be a dedicated fan. Therefore it stuck in my head!
Today indeed, Spotify is making our lives easier. It takes much less effort. Most of the time I let the app, a machine, choose what to play. I now have so many options, I can no longer know the names of the all songs or bands.
Because information is so easily accessible, you forget stuff way too easily.
This volatility is dangerous because one has to know and understand the advantages of technology. One must keep active and not just use tech passively or, even worse, take everything one stumbles upon online for granted, as there is an infinite amount of information. Working in education means needing to be informed or at least aware of where and how to search for things, and using information in a smart way.
One can, for example, be updated on all the latest methodologies or contemporary content. One could also reach out for the best mentors around the world et cetera.
My marketing and international backgrounds have also clearly influenced me. I have always been curious about the psychology behind our actions, studied what would influence decision-makers and examined what might grab the people’s attention. I use this knowledge to consider what the perfect lure would be, if I were a company wanting to hire a new employee and what I would look for in a student, who had just finished school. I have come to the conclusion that students will need to have an open mind, an intercultural, global point of view, and that they have to know the latest methodologies and how to put them in practice: amongst other things. To somehow achieve this is therefore our very goal in every course we design. We are as well giving a strong emphasis on the face-to-face component. In the end, no matter how comfortable one is with using technology, the physical and social connections are still essential to create memories and experiences.
How do you see the future of Higher Education, especially in practice based areas such as Fashion, Design or the Arts? Based on our 3D model (people, places and tools), what, who, where and how do see the most radical evolutions to happen? What would Smart Education be for you?
For me, smart education is tailored education, according to each individual student’s progress, strengths and weaknesses, interests and motivations, personal preferences, and goals. It is a participative, active and updated learning experience that is applicable to and in real working life environments. It somehow is a perfect mix of a clearly structured program with good basic knowledge and specific subject boosts, according to the personal interests and strengths of the student, creating both hard and soft skills. This could for example include courses helping students to work on improving public speaking, if they are shy or struggle presenting. It could also mean to attend parallel courses on hard skills to getting students to reach the same level as their classmates and not to fall behind.
The teacher’s role also needs to change. Today, students take more responsibility for their own learning using technology to widen their knowledge. That’s why mentors need to guide from the sidelines with much more impartiality. It can no longer be a teacher at the front and students taking a delivery for granted. Education is much more demanding and complex than that. It has to be an active learning environment where students as well as tutors are part of the learning process.
Smart education is allowing students a space for active participation, to connect with people around the globe, to learn different perspectives , to teach each other not to be afraid of reaching out, and to learn to take advantage of these new tools we have at our disposal. Smart education uses technology to interact and work collaboratively.
Last but not least, smart education is real responsible and inclusive education.
As the world demands better solutions for concerns such as environmental sustainability, educators must provide opportunities for students to be able to consciously choose the best materials and solutions for a design project, while avoiding global textile waste in Fashion for example; designing inclusive objects or experiences, which enable everyone to participate equally and fully.
On one side the world is further connected, on the other we are socially more and more distant. As Nicolas Laugero Lasserre said: « Digitalization often entails individualization, because even as a group of several people online, we somehow remain alone in front of our single screens. »
Rachel Weise wrote: « The effect of more hours spent on screen means that we are spending less time practicing our human skills in person with others, decoding facial expressions, body language, nonverbal cues, and tone. As a result, advancing technology is doing much more than changing the nature of work, it’s also changing us. » We all agree that human skills are the most important ones in today’s and especially future markets.
How can an academic institution make sure these skills are sincerely developed, profoundly fostered and transmitted without biases? Especially so, to a generation that is, for the first time in history, spending more social-time online, rather than offline.
This indeed is a big problem, the young generation should be a connected generation, as they grew up with technology, but I also feel that they are a rather lonely generation.
We have to stop giving crying children a digital device to play with. These kids are growing up confused and think of it as a comforting action, rather than the classic hug or a look in their eyes to show everything is ok. They will not know how to interact face to face, and will find it difficult to socialize properly.
For my generation, parents and times „forced“ kids to interact and socialize with each other, to exit comfort zones, reach out and see what would happen, or to create games from what was at disposal.
Our generation still had to use an „old school“ imagination.
I remember being at my aunt’s house and not having any toys, I would reach for the shampoo and body gel bottle and make them talk and make up a story.
We need to help young generations develop their social intelligence, interact, reach out and understand the consequences from certain behaviours. It is way more difficult to learn how to do things „on the job“ or later on in life. If students do not know how to behave in a social situation, they will be anxious individuals that probably close themselves within their devices in a corner of the room.
With social media we all have spotlights on ourselves now, and the pressure to perform and have the best life to show off. People always and rather talk about themselves, becoming the most individualistic generation ever.
As mentors we have to lead by example and teach how to use these tools in a sane and proper way. Apart from accessing updated information worldwide, we could use social media as part of the learning process; show students how to interact and discuss with others, and build a culture of collaboration.
We need to help students to develop their soft skills, active listening, engaging, collaborating, stepping outside their comfort zone, and being more confident: Making them reach out to people they admire to mentor them on their projects, giving them the tips, but not doing the work for them.
Warren Buffet never stops mentioning that “it amazes (him) how widespread the use of EBITDA has become and people try to dress up financial statements with it.”
How do you see the relation between one of Higher Education’s core values , academic research and publishing its findings, the delivery of an academic experience to students, often the main income, and the schools “success” being based on the aforementioned financial performance measurement?
Even though mentors are not likely to see schools as an enterprise, all institutions work on a budget, with money they receive either from students or from the government or both. Schools need to earn money in order to be able to work. We should accept this and try to introduce what other companies have done to succeed and incorporate new concepts to maximize efficiency.
Of course we would all love to invest in the best tools, equipment, mentors and experiences abroad; but it is expensive, and sometimes it just isn’t financially feasible.
In my ideal world, going back to personalized education, we would work with tools analyzing the students’ projects and work before enrolling. With such tools, we could enable teachers to collect data on the enrolled students’ performance, making it easier for them to personalize the content, and create perfected programs responding to students’ needs and interests, as well as the market’s needs. Patrizia Barbieri
And always collaborating with other schools, working together to achieve a shared goal.
Please name your current favourite book?
My favorite current book is “Make Time”, by J. Knapp and J. Zeratsky which responds to the concerns I have about this volatile and fast paced world we are living in. It gives interesting tips on how to choose a focal point for your day, then concentrate and stick to it without getting lost in all the distractions/black holes/“ infinity pools” which surround us (always-on, effectively infinite sources of information and entertainment).
It kind of makes me feel less guilty (and less alone) for having that feeling of having done many small things but nothing really important.
I like the sentence “By challenging the standard behaviors in our efficiency-obsessed, distraction-saturated world, you can get the best of technology and put yourself back in control. And once you take control, you can change the game”.
The questions were exchanged via a google doc in April 2021.