Humans Need Not Apply

The end of work… and not in a good way

So I’ve been banging on about this for months now, but someone has made a very watchable video about it. Take a look and then think about the future.

Pretty chilling stuff, eh.

IT education in Japan

I was talking to teachers at a school this week and went on a bit of a rant about how Japanese junior and senior high school students don’t do enough to acquire useful computer skills in school.

boys with computer

During a conversation afterwards, there seems to be an impression among teachers that IT skills involve using tablets, e-textbooks, and other new-fangled resources that they don’t understand.

That was not in the slightest what I was referring to.

I believe all students should acquire the following skills and competencies at school:

  1. Familiarity with computers, keyboards, mice
  2. Ability to do basic operations (turn on and off, launch programs, find things on the computer)
  3. Basic touch typing
  4. Use of word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software
  5. Ability to do basic research on the internet
  6. Ability to share data and collaborate online (via email or the cloud)
  7. Basic use of email (including spam awareness)
  8. Basic web design (elementary HTML) and blog creation
  9. Awareness of online safety issues (including identity theft)

Students should not only do this in their IT classes, but also practice and reinforce these skills in their other subject classes so that they come to see them as tools rather than content for a specific class.

This may seem basic and obvious to some readers, but as far as I can tell is not happening consistently across the board in Japan.

What do you think? Is anything missing from the list?


A balanced view on technology and foreign language education


Following on from my posts on the future of EFL a few weeks ago, I came across this extremely readable and thought-provoking essay on technology and language learning. Well worth twenty minutes of your day.

30 May 2014, 8:07am
teaching technology


Welcome to the desert of the real

The march of technology continues


Microsoft announced a new product the other day: simultaneous interpretation over Skype.


Also Google bought Word Lens last week and made all their products free. Check it out and blow your mind.

How can this not impact language teaching and learning?


Oh, and the Google robot cars are one step closer:


29 Apr 2014, 12:28pm
career technology


One Future of EFL?


“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee” (John Donne)

I had an interesting conversation yesterday on Facebook. I was talking about the importance of financial literacy and how everyone should be saving for retirement or at least for an uncertain future. Some of the answers I got were along the lines of “I can’t afford to retire, so I will just continue working indefinitely”.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the coming jobs apocalypse and the conversation above got me thinking about how this will apply to teaching English as a foreign language.

I believe that within a relatively short amount of time, real-time translation and interpretation will be available to almost anyone. Auto-translate on websites is now a thing and voice recognition is accelerating thanks to projects like Siri. The inexorable progress of computer speeds and storage means that it is just a matter of (rapidly shrinking) time before good enough versions of these are on every mobile device.

At that point, what happens to foreign language education?

A few people will still need to develop foreign language skills, including diplomats or people who are planning to live in a foreign country. For pretty much anyone else, cheap and reliable automatic translation will meet their needs. In that situation,

  • will parents still see a need for their children to learn English?
  • will school systems still insist that everyone learn English and use it to determine educational rankings?
  • will companies still encourage their employees to develop their language skills?

I don’t know how long it will take society to adapt to the new technological paradigm. It could take a long time for inertia and precedent to be overcome. But I do think that in the near future the current mass-market for EFL will likely disappear.

If you are an EFL teacher and more than ten years from retirement, how do you see your career progressing? Do you have a plan B? 

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