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Here are some ideas about paradigm shifts from Living on the Future Edge by Ian Jukes, Ted McCain, and Lee Crockett. Technology advances have reached a point to where the changes we are seeing in society are exponential – they are coming so quickly that they are hard to grasp. To compound the problem, the time between the shifts continues to decrease, which gives us even less time to adjust before another new paradigm is upon us.

So what do we do as educators?

• We must realize that we are always in the middle of a paradigm, and seeing things from another perspective is sometimes difficult.

• We must accept the fact that we must shift. Our students are shifting, and we must shift with them.

• The biggest question is HOW we will respond. We desire comfort, but changes often require more work and a new way of looking at the world.


• The layout of most schools, especially high schools, was created before the Great Depression. The paradigm of 20th Century schools was great for the Industrial Age, a time of mass production and standardization – but we are now in the Information Age.

• Using an Industrial Age paradigm in the Information Age will not work.

• We must avoid paradigm paralysis, a state in which we refuse to acknowledge in our schools the shifts occurring around us in society.

• We must adapt and have paradigm pliability, which is the ability to recognize limitations of existing paradigms and to be able to make adjustments or abandon the old paradigm.

• Our view of our paradigm is often driven by our life experiences, personality, or personal goals.

• Most adults are experiencing a sort of paradigm pressure, in which a new paradigm is shifting up against an existing, comfortable one.

• To get an accurate picture of the future, we must understand that technology develops exponentially over time. These exponential shifts began decades ago, but only recently has the accelerating pattern become more obvious to us.

• The only way to cope with modern life is to look at the world from a completely new perspective. If we don’t think ahead, then we won’t know what hit us.

• We cannot be successful by dealing only with the present; we must split our attention between the present and the future.

• The future will be astounding. Effective educators must extrapolate current trends out to the future to see what students will need to operate in the world of tomorrow.

We must view these challenges as opportunities and look at where the world is going, not where it is today.

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Comment by Fred Donelson on August 31, 2011 at 10:39pm



Very good points.  I might add one thought however.  Some educators suggest that we are currently leaving the "information age" and heading into a new paradigm called the "conceptual age".  It used to be that if you just had access to information, you had power to change or control situations and circumstances.  But now, with so much information at hand, and with that information available world wide on a much more level "playing field", it's not just enough to have information.  Lots of people have it.  The question is, who will do something unique or useful with that information?  Who will conceptualize a new, unique approach to meet the wants/needs of society?


For example, there are hundred of thousands of engineers around the world, many of whom are working on similar problems.  Most have access to the same information and data.  Those who are successful will be those who come up with unique, "out of the box" solutions that meet the needs (or at least the perceived needs) of the most people. It's not good enough for solutions to just work.  They must work efficiently, effectively, and stand out above other solutions in order to get noticed!


Consequently, we need to develop engineers with different qualities than in the last 40 years.  We need to help them develop empathy so they understand the needs of people.  We need them to be able to recognize patterns in complex data, so that they see trends that others don't.  Some need to be story tellers, so that they can market new products with unique characteristics. 


Certainly we are in the midst of a new shift right now in education and it can be uncomfortable.  But it can also be exciting and inspiring.  As Mark said above, "we must view these challenges as opportunities and look where the world is going, not where it is today."  Great educators continue to look, imagine, and move forward!


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