Bio-Hacked Students | On the Outer Edge of Digital Citizenship
Dr. Jason Ohler
21st Century Education Expert and Lifelong Digital Humanist
A Smarter, "Better" Student
To be clear, I am referring to students who arrive at school bearing super tattoos, embedded chips or other implants that improve their neurological or biological capabilities. That is, they are smarter and more capable with these technologies than without them. As the Internet of Things spreads into every corner of our lives, we will find that those with implants are the most connected "things" of all. If you want an introduction to what being hacked is going to look like, go todangerousthings.com, which provides one of the first forays into a commercially feasible storefront for singularity, Ray Kurzweil's projection that we will merge seamlessly, and indistinguishably, with our technology.
First Came Thinking Caps
Thinking caps, which can do everything from improve math scores to bolster your spritual life, are kinder, gentler versions of embedded chips because we can take them off and revert to a more natural, less capable version of ourselves very easily. However, with embedded chips and super tattoos this will not be possible. The questions for communities and school boards will be: Shall we allow “hacked” students into school on an equal footing with unhacked students? Or will we make them “turn off” their superpowers when they enter school, perhaps through an app on their smart phones? ("Students- if any of you have neuro booster implants please shut them off now before the exam begins.") And what do we do about cyberstudents whose "school" is wherever they happen to be?
An Abundance of Issues
The presence of implanted students seems unsettling for a number of reasons. If one student has implants or super tattoos, should they all have access to them? Should those who can’t afford them be given clothing or other gear that helps compensate? Should we welcome technologically augmented students and create special approaches to meeting their educational needs? We are on the cusp of defining a new generation of haves and have-nots, as well as perhaps a new approach to Special Education, which laudably seeks to equalize opportunities for students despite their challenges. How will we say no to hacked students, particularly those who need technological augmentation in order to join the mainstream? We should expect news stories like:
Hacked students perform better on standardized tests. Parents sue school district for failure to provide neuro-enhancing opportunities for all students.
In the private sector we will see:
Employers insist on neuro-enhanced employees. Workers sue for the right to be themselves. The Supreme Court is asked to decide whether or not civil rights should be expanded to make it illegal to discriminate based on “hacked enhancement,” or a lack thereof.
For the Naysayers
There is no shortage of naysayers about the coming age of an "enhanced"' society. They remind me of the people who told me during the 1980s that computers were a fad and the Internet would never catch on. Come to think of it, those people didn’t really calm down until they were carrying wireless devices plugged into an omnipresent cloud. Now they have all settled in to ride the innovation rollercoaster, quite accepting of the fact that they have no idea where it is headed or how to steer it.
And no, none of the naysayers ever circled back to admit their error in judgment. Not to me, anyway.
“The Hacked Student” is an Issue for Digital Citizenship
But the real issue here is not technical. It is social and particularly educational. Issues like hacked students fall within the digital citizenship domain, that growing field of inquiry and activity that challenges us to better understand the rights, responsibilities and opportunities associated with living a digital lifestyle. We should be training students to deal with issues like living in a hacked society so that they can develop the perceptual and ethical decision-making capabilities they need to be informed citizens, voters and neighbors. Hacked students will become normal at some point and then we will be on to the next OMG development. But Digital Citizenship is forever. We will find it is our only source of insight and inspiration to help us understand the moral complexities of our new normal, which will always exceed our wildest expectations.
After all, it’s only 2016, the future is just getting started, and we want our students to be ready.
Source: Dr. Jason Ohler
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