The Future of Education…

Wow — There have been some pretty amazing posts in blogs, listserves, and online in the past few days. Will Richardson is back from his blogging vacation and posted the following about his feelings about the educational blogosphere:

But there’s no doubt there is an energy around all of this right now, an urgency even. I’m feeling it in my own life, not just in the education sense but in a more global sense. What difference do I really want to make? What contribution?

Fred Bartels, organizer of the Collaborative Guide to School Computing, began to answer Will’s question (without knowing) in the following ISED-L listserv post:

While computers have been steadily increasing in power, powerful new ways of sharing information over networks have also been developing rapidly.


What feels different now is the speed at which the digital world is growing, the complexity and compelling nature of that world, and the almost total ignorance most parents and educators have of large parts of that world. Students are out exploring realms of the digital world with almost no guidance or modeling from responsible adults.

and finished by asking

All this implies a really hard look at what we teach and how we teach it. It also implies that much loved (at least by teachers) parts of the curriculum will need to go. As a gardener I know that it is sometimes hard to trim, or remove, a plant that is no longer right for a given space. Yet it has to be done to keep the garden in balance. I think we have curricular gardens which were largely designed for a pre-computer world, and they are becoming increasingly unbalanced in a computer mediated world. Perhaps it is time to do some serious trimming and transplanting.

I agree with Fred that it’s time to do some serious trimming and transplanting of our educational system.

I’m reading The Cluetrain Manifesto on the recommendation by Steven Downes (See the On Being Radical Post Below). In the first chapter, there are some amazing insights into the history of business — some of this history I learned about in my Theories of Curriculum class in graduate school. What’s the relationship between business and education you ask? The author states:

Ford was strongly influences by Frederick Taylor and his theory of “scientific management.” Taylor’s time-and motion metrics sought to bring regularity and predictability to bear on the increasingly detailed division of labor. Under such a regimen, previously holistic craft expertise rapidly degraded into the mindless execution of a single repetitive tasks, with each worker performing only one operation in the overall process. Because of its effect on workers’ knowledge, de-skilling is a term strongly associated with mass production. And as skills disappeared, so did the unique voice of the craftsman.

Think of the schools we all teach in — as students get older (or at least until 12th grade), the subjects are taught in increasingly compartmentalized subjects in 40 minute periods. This is the same model that Taylor used for business in the early 20th century. We’re still using it!
Now think of current business processes and how they have changed over the past 100 years. In the current Total Quality Management theory, “People were encouraged to share what they knew with each other, with other departments and divisions, and with the company as a whole.” It’s now 2006. Business processes have changed. People are talking in between their departments and divisions. It’s time for school’s to follow business again and make the move. What steps need to be taken? I’m searching.
In ending — I want to link to a “This I Believe” piece I heard from Alan Lightman this AM on NPR. Great final paragraph (but I highly recommend you read the whole thing):

One of the Holy Grails in physics is to find the so-called “theory of everything,” the final theory that will encompass all the fundamental laws of nature. I, for one, hope that we never find that final theory. I hope that there are always things that we don’t know — about the physical world as well as about ourselves. I believe in the creative power of the unknown. I believe in the exhilaration of standing at the boundary between the known and the unknown. I believe in the unanswered questions of children.

“I believe in the unanswered questions of children.” Teaching the way we do now does not fully explore those questions. We need to connect with kids and ask them what their questions are, instead of answering our own.


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