Future Education & Links

written on September 23, 2013

As I’ve mentioned before I am a part of our local school district’s Parent Advisory Committee. Recently we’ve been discussing the rollout of our Middle School’s One-to-One (1:1) Technology Initiative. Our first meeting this year was last Thursday evening, and my brain has been swirling with technology and education ideas since then.

The middle school principle, Chris Billings has written up a concise set of goals he’d like to see when each child has a laptop in hand:

  • Increase access to information
  • Increase collaborative opportunities
  • Increase relevancy of student work
  • Increase creativity of student work
  • Increase individualized education (often times this is called differentiation)

The district has decided to go with Google Chromebooks, for many of the reasons cited here and expanded in this article. The committee is composed of ten people, a mix of: teachers, staff and parents. The conversation was surprisingly engaging and open. It was courteous but also honest discussion of our concerns and desires for the students.

Focus and Goals

There are lots of things to quibble with for nerds. We can get ourselves all wound up on the classic debates of hardware, software and even licensing of terms1. I am sure that there are equally distracting discussions on the teacher’s side too.

But none of these are the real issue.

The important question is how do we continue to use the tools and ideas around us to properly train and educate people. The fundamental question is: are low-cost, pervasive, always-on, connected devices and services changing how we structure and assess formalized education?

There is a lot of activity in this space. There will be a serious change in how we formally educate students in the United States. I suspect that the traditional four-year college education will be the first impacted – I hope universities are well prepared and can adjust accordingly. Will the public system be able to shift, mold, bend and adapt or will it be broken, destroyed and rebuilt?

This will be an interesting 25 years.

Interesting articles

Here are a few articles that I found interesting this week. At some point I plan to write some type of response to the first two.

No Child Left Untableted by Carlo Rotella for the New York Times Magazine

It is long, but the author does a great job articulating the issues and his own biases toward tablet and computer use in the classroom. After a long read the Rotella doesn’t stray far from his initial observations:

“The tablets, paid for in part by a $30 million grant from the federal Department of Education’s Race to the Top program …. struck me as exemplifying several dubious American habits now ascendant: the overvaluing of technology and the undervaluing of people; the displacement of face-to-face interaction by virtual connection; the recasting of citizenship and inner life as a commodified data profile; the tendency to turn to the market to address social problems.”

This is a well written, and a scathing assessment. The question he doesn’t answer: how do we use all of this for good – to facilitates student learning?

Reinventing School From the Ground Up For Inquiry Learning

Tackles some interesting ideas about how to use natural curiosity to facilitate learning.

For all of us, as citizens and educators, in this country and others, it’s way past time for school “improvement,” and high time to invent fresh organizations designed for inquiry— the ecosystem for inquiry, in which all elements of the environment act holistically to grow, nurture, and sustain the qualities of heart and mind necessary for students and teachers to learn to ask good questions instead of finding right answers.

Often overlooked, even by experts in project based learning, is that inquiry isn’t designed to teach information; it’s designed to set up the conditions under which students become more skillful. That’s why it’s inherently student-centered. Successful inquiry requires skillful competencies, which are a deep amalgam of habits, personality, and an experiential knowledge base.

Chuck Stetson’s Preparing Yalies for business

A guest column for the Yale Daily News. This is an interesting perspective, Stetson is a business person who is looking to hire high quality employees out of college. He addresses some concerns he has with current college graduates.

When I was at Yale, the University was very proud of the fact that the largest number of Fortune 500 CEOs came from Yale. … The humanities that CEOs had studied at Yale had led them to big success in business.

As we look to Yale’s future, we should consider what an educated person must know. We should address the decline of survey courses. We must not overlook the steady decline of the humanities…

  1. Closed vs Open Source, and even the various MIT and GPL flavors of licensing.