Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quality Education: The Changing Face of Education

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Quality Education: The
Changing Face of Education

A blogger by the name of Bud
the Teacher
turned me on to a book A
Schoolmaster of the Great City. Bud suggested the book would show
some of the very same problems we see today in the classroom. I think
we also see some of the same philosophical questions that schools
face today.

Page 97 The school world that had been
sufficient within itself opened up its doors;

Page 101 Even if we could take upon our
shoulders all the responsibilities of the home and relieve you
entirely it would not be good for you and for the children.

Page 159 That class has to learn the
stuff that’ll pass exams. (A parent speaking to the principal)

Page 203 Her ability to recite the
allotted lessons, though no test of spiritual growth, of human
sympathy, are sufficient for school progress.

Page 200 The school must constantly
ask, “What is the effect of my programme on the soul growth of the
children? Why is it that my programme does not reach all children?
What can I do to keep in touch with ideas that are vigorous and
young? What can I do to keep sane, human, far-seeing? How can I
respect the child’s prolonged infancy and keep him from facing the
struggle of the labour market until he is mentally and physically
fit? How can I translate efficiency, goodness, will training,
citizenship, parental duty into child happiness?”

So it would seem that for at least the
last 90 years or so schools have been attempting to overcome similar
problems in both keeping students motivated and figuring out it’s
true role in society.

Recently I posted about disruptive
technology. The point is that as much as things stay the same in
education there is also room for change. We in the U.S. may not, and
probably will not be in the forefront of this change. That doesn’t
mean we will be left behind. It means we are going to go through some
disturbing changes.

Take a look for a second at some of the
reflections about NECC 08 (National Educational Computing
Conference). Dean
, Chris
, Sheryl,
, Paul
, and of course Bud.
There are what seems like a million more reflections, but I think
these are a good cross section, at least of the ones I read. I get
the sense that the conference while good, seems to have lost the
promise that was built last year.

These are the teachers who are not only
on the leading edge of technology (notice I didn’t say technology
in the classroom), but they are also the educators on the leading
edge of education itself. These are the people who are thinking about
how education is changing. These are the educators who are not
satisfied with the way things are. These are the educators who start
with a vision of education ten steps past where we are today and
start building the road there.

So why are so many quality educators
frustrated? Granted most quality educators live a frustrated life
trying to improve a centuries old institution. As Chris Lehman said
in one post “we have picked all the low hanging fruit.” There is
a concept called Flat Earth. Flat Earth is basically the idea that
through the use of technology everyone in the world can compete on
equal footing. Granted a trucking company with trucks in Europe will
have a bit of difficulty transporting good around the U.S. , but
there is very little difference between a company with headquarters
in Europe and trucks in the U.S. and a company wholly in the U.S.

Now expand that concept beyond business
to education. Will my middle school teacher be replaced with a WebEx
session from India or China? Probably not. Will my middle school
student compete with a student from India or China or Africa or
Finland? Yes. Can my middle school student compete? Yes.

I think we have gone as far as we can
with the education as an assembly line approach. It is time to think
of education as more dynamic.

According to this editorial
average education levels in the U.S. have risen from 8 years of
schooling in the 1879’s to 14 years in the 1970’s. Since then
education levels have slowed to a crawl. During the last 40 years
most of the rest of the world has learned to follow our education
lead. In many cases other countries have surpassed us. It is getting
to the point where many of the top minds in specific research fields
are as likely to join a research team in another country as they
would join a team in the U.S. The idea that the earth is flat doesn’t
just apply to business.

I see the Flat
not as an impending doom from an economic
take over, but as the beginning of an education revolution. I see
students who are hungry to learn getting that opportunity. I see
education changing from knowing to using. I see students in Iowa
working with and sharing with students from Zimbabwe. I see a bright
future for my children.


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