(Note: Cross-posted at The Pulse) When I think about the potential effects of the Read/Write Web on education I’m continually drawn to watching the way things are playing out outside of our focus, specifically in journalism, music, business and politics. In each of those arenas, the disruption that these changes (i.e. the easy creation and publishing of content) has been and continues to be great. You need look no further than the cell phone captured execution of Saddam Hussein to know that we are entering what will no doubt be an extremely interesting (to put it mildly) period that will push our thinking about privacy, communication, literacy and learning. Newspapers are struggling to navigate a world where we can all be journalists. Musicians are more and more going outside of the traditional steps to stardom, eliminating the middlemen and counting on the viral nature of the Web to find success. John Edwards, like him or not, recently announced his candidacy for president on YouTube. In case after case, the traditional models that have been increasingly used to lock down ideas and content are being challenged by a public that is becoming drunk with the power of publishing.
And so I often wonder how long it will take before our traditional concepts of schooling will be also be significantly challenged by the shifts that a more co-operative rather than competitive Web environment is delivering. One obvious place where the disruption is especially transparent is the explosion of “open content” educational materials that are coming online every day. While the most obvious is the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative, which is providing the materials for over 1,600 courses free online, there are literally millions of pieces of valuable, solid content online that cobbled together could do a great job of replacing much of what we currently teach in schools.
In a presentation last fall, Todd Richmond, a fellow at the USC Annenberg Center and the Center for Creative Technologies at USC, said that because of technologies that allow students to view powerful content online and then remix or reflect on that material by publishing their own reactions back to the world, “the previously strictly hierarchical relationships between teacher and learner are changing.” Richmond asks “How do motivated learners and skilled teachers make use of open educational resources to best achieve their aims?”
That is an important question for all of us in a world where there may be better content and better teachers outside of our classrooms that we can connect to for the benefit of our students’ learning. And it forces us to think disruptively about our traditional view of learning and teaching. As District Administration publisher Dan Kinnaman says in the latest issue:
An alarming reality for K12: Despite the radical transformation of data storage and information access, there has been no associated transformation of K12 education. Alarmingly, there may be no sector of society where technology has had less impact. That’s because K12 education persists in operating on the premise that to have school, you must physically co-locate teachers, students and curriculum materials. Teachers and students are assigned to stand-alone, self-contained school buildings that house paltry collections of mostly outdated curriculum materials. With rare exceptions, digital technologies and interactive communications are still largely peripheral to the primary activities of the typical school day. The premise that co-location is required is invalid, and we need to stop spending inordinate amounts of time, energy and money to maintain it as our fundamental operational structure.
That’s the disruption that I think about when trying to peer into the future. As more and more learning, powerful, passion-based learning becomes available outside the classroom, will the “perfect storm” (as Richmond calls it) for education finally arrive, forcing us, finally, to consider some radical re-envisioning of our classrooms?
Andrew Pass says
So Will, How do we start? Here’s one possible suggestion: Ask students to identify a current event from overseas that they would like to investigate. Once they identify the event they have to obtain three different perspectives of what happened. They then have to develop a single presentation of the different perspectives in which they incorporate sound, some of it being from a personal interview of somebody involved with the event. Students will then have to explain how this presentation fulfills one or more mandated objectives. As I write this response, Will, I realize taht many schools lack the necessary technology to have students do these assignments. So, what comes first, the acquisition of the technology so that teachers can learn to use it effectively or the teacher demand for the technology?
I’m going to cross post this on my own blog.
Bob K says
John Edwards knows a lot about poverty, after all, heâ€™s helped throw a lot of people into it with:
– his co-sponsorship of H-1b visas,
– his support for illegal aliens,
– his vote for MFN-China
but what about stuff like iraq war and the patriot act?
well, he voted for them too
About the only thing you can say for Edwards is, he spent so much time running for president that he didnt have time to do more damage as senator
Youâ€™ve got to ask yourself – â€˜what did he do, with the power he had, when he had it?
Kelly Christopherson says
Will, until we come with some type of format of what future schools might look like we will be stuck with what we have now. The public demands that students make “marks” so they can get into a “good” college/university so they can find a “good” job. I don’t see the mainstream public asking for a change in the way schools assess students. Once we can change the mantra of the masses, change will take place. Right now the world looks at the PISA and other international studies and then each country/state/province begins to navel gaze and we end up with a whole new set of reforms that will supposedly change our students standing on these tests. This is an ugly cycle that defines the curricula for us. And, with what you are proposing, is the adult world ready for one in which the youth can participate in equally? Shouldn’t they have to “earn” their way into it? Despite the use of the different technologies, we still a predominate society where technology isn’t affecting things. Yes the camera phone is altering things but, with the amount of people who are now playing journalist, the amount of “informative” information available is staggering, to the point where I gone back to the big networks for information – too much crap to sift through. Same with the blogosphere, niches are being developed and people are beginning to settle into groups – only a natural progression when you have so many from which to choose. As for it being alarming that the k-12 sector hasn’t changed – really – society has a vision of a school and it is often difficult to bring about change because of that factor alone. People have difficulty seeing that literacy is more than reading and writing, that we really don’t need textbooks if we were to use the technologies even just a bit more and we can almost eliminate paper if we can convince people to move to using the technologies. It doesn’t mean we eliminate tests or assessment – we just do it differently and expand our defenition of literate. But, the message must be on a larger scale and said more than once or twice. It has to become the constant mantra of educators.