As an example of something humans can do better than machines and how this should be emphasized in classrooms, Prensky noted that teachers are better at empathy, and students are better at passion.
“The most important thing in education is to encourage student passion, and that’s what we’re trying to do, in part, with technology,” he said. “Technology can expand information and creative horizons, inciting passion, but then it’s up to the teacher to find, understand, and cultivate a student’s passion.”
According to Prensky, the keys to effective 21st-century education are to:
- Listen to kids’ passions.
- Respect each other (both students and teachers).
- Over-expect from both students and teachers.
- Empower all teachers to do what they know is right.
“Number four is important, because inherently people become teachers because they want to inspire and to cultivate passion and engagement, which gets beaten out of them over the years through standardization, et cetera. We need to help teachers get back to the jobs they’ve been trying to do,” he said.
Mayim Bialik— an actress and teacher who has a doctorate in neuroscience—was also part of the keynote panel, and she related how when she was starring in the show Blossom when she was a teenager, she wasn’t interested in science, math, and technology.
“I never looked at myself, especially as a woman, and thought: ‘I can be a neuroscientist or an engineer,’ mostly because no one had ever really talked to me about science. But then I had a tutor who showed me her passion in science and helped open me to a whole new world. It only takes one passionate teacher, ready to understand who you are and what motivates you,” she concluded.