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I’ve been reading Living on the Future Edge by Ian Jukes, Ted McCain, and Lee Crockett, and they point out that our schools were built for a world that existed 100 years ago but disappeared with the advent of the Internet. Are we ready for a challenge? Our greatest challenge as educators is to prepare our students to enter a future world that doesn’t exist yet, to train them to solve problems that don’t exist yet, and to train them to solve these problems with technology that doesn’t exist yet. Here are some of their points:


• Too many of us ask our students to memorize facts when students can google the question instead and have an answer in three seconds. The Internet is now doubling in size every 120 days, so Instead of asking students to memorize data, we should be teaching them to sort through the enormous amount of data at their fingertips. Jukes and his fellow authors refer to this glut of data as InfoWhelm, which means to be overwhelmed by information.


• Moore’s Law, which predicts the number of months it takes for technology’s speed to increase while its cost decreases, now states that technology speed is probably doubling every six to twelve months while the price of that technology continues to fall. We must prepare for the day when computers are the major learning tool for all of our students, not just for that handful of students who are lucky enough to use the five for six computers most of us have in our classrooms.


• Jukes, McCain and Crocket also stress that we live in an exponential world, a time when knowledge, technology, speed, and the resulting change are increasing exponentially. While Thomas Friedman asserts we live in a flat world, the authors point out we also live in vertical world --- imagine a chart depicting the amount of technology and change that are approaching us, and the line depicting change would be drawn vertically, almost straight up to the top. What will the world be like by the time our kindergarteners enter the work force? It’s hard to even imagine. We must break out of our traditional paradigms to see the world that now exists and imagine the one that will exist in the future.


• These times are highly disruptive because of all of the innovations, and this includes what is occurring in education. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric wrote, “When the rate of change outside the organization is greater than the rate of change inside the organization, the end is in sight.” If our schools don’t change, then they will slowly disappear.

 

We must examine all aspects of our classrooms, and we must plug our schools into our students’ world. In society, we often don’t see the changes that are happening until they reach a point to where they are suddenly obvious to everyone. In education, we tend to be even more isolated from these changes because of the heavy reliance upon standardized testing to determine our success. The world is changing exponentially while we continue to test the skills of the 20th century with pencils and bubbles, and if our students do well we are applauded and told we are doing a fine job. It’s important that our students have the skills to test well, but the future will belong to those who can solve new problems with new technology. One day our society and our governments will wake up and realize this fact. If they don’t, our public schools will disappear and be replaced some form of educational institution that doesn’t exist yet.

 

But we can’t wait. Let’s do all we can now to lead the transformation. Our schools should be centered on creativity, technology, flexibility, student relevance, rigor, relationships, project based learning, collaboration, dealing with InfoWhelm, and using the Internet. We, as educators, must shift our paradigm from one of what see in the present to one of exponential change.


It won’t be easy, but who ever said changing our part of the world would be? Let’s focus on the possibilities. Imagine how great the world will be and our part in helping it to get there!

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