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A Better “Way”

March 18, 2013

The best way to change the existing reality is to create a new reality

that makes the old one obsolete … Buckminster Fuller

I read two posts today that cover the same ground but from completely different perspectives. The first post from Edushyster, “The Cla$$room of the Future”, skewers a SXSWedu presentation done by InBloom, a new tech-based education firm funded by Rupert Murdoch. The second post by David Jakes, from ASCD’s Smartblog on Education, poses the question “Are Your Students Ready?” and suggests that the answer may be no unless we prepare them for the new reality of 1:1 learning.

Edushyster’s blog is often written in an entertaining fashion, and this post is no exception. In most cases I agree with her assertions, but in this case, I’m afraid she missed the boat, as I wrote in this comment:

One of my favorite quotes is from Buckminster Fuller: “The best way to change the existing reality is to create a new reality that makes the old one obsolete”. I, for one, believe the current reality of schooling IS obsolete: it is based on a factory model we set up to sort students into batches in the 1920s and has not changed since then. Using technology to implement 1:1 instruction is a new reality that will make the obsolescence our current reality evident. My fear is that if the current public education system doesn’t embrace this new approach to learning, parents will…. and they may do it completely outside of the existing reality of “schooling”. (Look at the emerging trend of “unschooling” by many of the opt out parents for examples of this). Oh… and those little badges on the smiling child’s pad will soon be BIG badges awarded to adults seeking employment, badges that signify mastery of skills taught by MOOCs. How quickly will this happen? Look at the charts that show how rapidly cell phone technology spread over one decade for a possible answer.

Edushyster, like many anti-privatizers, is stuck on WHO is behind the changes (“profiteers” like Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch) and WHY they want to change ($$$$) that they are overlooking the fact that SOME of their ideas have merit.

David Jakes, on the other hand, seems so engaged in the implementation of the 1:1 technology that he seems oblivious to the fact that it might be used to make schools profitable. He also sees that the greatest impediment to implementing this new approach is that many students, like many teachers, are so invested in “The Way We Do Things Now” that doing something completely different is threatening.

As noted in earlier posts, I still have a naive optimism about the potential of technology to change the way we do schooling…. and like Jakes fear that our own inability to abandon our current thinking may preclude us from seizing the opportunity to truly individualize instruction… which brings me to my closing quotation:

“Structures of which we are unaware hold us prisoner. Once we can see them

and name them, they no longer have the same hold on us.

                                                                                                   Peter Senge



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