Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Contemplating the Future of Education: Week 1 #edfuture

I am participating in the Open Course in Education Futures facilitated by George Siemens and Dave Cormier.  I'm excited about this course for two primary reasons.  First, I like the concept of a structured approach to contemplating the future of education.  Second, I'm fascinated by the format of the course.  Having also participated and enjoyed #CCK08, this is another opportunity to learn from numerous brilliant people and get some ideas for an open course I will be offering next spring.

I recently returned to John Dewey's (1913) Interest and Effort in Education looking for a quote.  Instead, I ended up with the following quotes from the Editor's Introduction leaving a strange sinking feeling in my gut.
It's active acceptance by teachers would bring about a complete transformation of classroom methods (p. v).

Somehow our teaching has not attracted children to the school and its work (p. vi). 

Good teaching and the teaching of the future, will make school life vital to youth (p. vii).

At the present hour, we are very deeply concerned with the universal education of youth (p. viii)
The final solution is to be found in a better quality of teaching, one which will absorb children because it gives purpose and spirit to learning (p. x).
Is it just me or do these 100 year-old quotes sound hauntingly familiar?  If the teaching of the future is going to make school life vital to youth, how far in the future do we have to go?  Suddenly David Wiley's Parody doesn't seem so far fetched.

So, I'm beginning my journey into education futures by looking back at the past.  I believe this is important if we really hope to facilitate change.  Most of us like to think that the benefits of technology will help transform education, but we absolutely cannot assume that a trend in the consumer, media, or business world will necessarily translate to a trend in the education world.  That is why the structure of future thinking is so important to our field.  We have to be able to approach our administrators, districts, and policy makers with visions of the future supported by research and thoughtful consideration of trends.  IAF's Guide for Thinking about the Future suggests we set achievable goals to be reached within a reasonable amount of time based on articulation of a vision of the future we want to create.  Somehow I'm not as worried about the vision, mission, goals, and strategies as I am about the implementation.  I wonder if Dewey had those same thoughts 100 years ago?


Steve said...

I'll be looking forward to your subsequent posts!

houshuang said...

I agree, it's scary how much we are talking about now, which has been said before. Whether it's Illich predicting learning networks, or Dewey predicting 21st Century Skills... But how can we get there?

Benjamin said...

I agree that the mission, vision, etc. of a school is not as important as how each teacher identifies themselves within the mission, vision, etc. Although I do think that schools have changed over the last 100 years, what they have not done well is to close the gap between what society does (in real life) and what learners do in institutions. I think if teachers can pursue individual goals while adhering to a school mission, vision, etc., then schools will be in a better position to implement change that leads to higher student achievement. Higher student achievement will require some level of interaction with local and global communities in ways that make the learning experience more relevance, meaningful, and robust for each learner. If students remain isolated from society as they progress through the educational system, we will be scratching our heads 100 years from now wondering how in the world these quotes can still apply.

Anonymous said...

I too have just joined the EdFuture's activity. Your thesis point is that it's not our ideas but our implementations may be on the critical path to making schools better places (ie, we already know what to do, its just that we don't do it broadly or deeply enough yet). This same point is addressed by Benjamin, perhaps schools are too disconnected.
In fact its less that students are isolated from society in schools, but that schools-as-society-members are isolated. I think issues we need to address include better leadership (of and by schools) and better implementation of existing ideas.
Speaking of Implementation, all thru my PhD I kept on my notice-board a Miles & Huberman matrix on implementing change and its stages, to remind me how my PhD topic could be implemented - from deeply by a few, to trivially by many; the stages ended at 'Institutionalisation'. It lead me to the insight that our focus is often only to the converted, too top heavy... or those who like change are not good at sinking that change deeper into their communities, where they become natural, integrated, institutionalised.

Norman Constantine said...

The problem is that we forget the simple that all of this stuff should not be about teaching but about learning. The only question that we should ask of students is "What do you want to know?"...then we should try to answer is liberating us from the tyranny and necessity of school....learning is liberating....liberate do not teach your them answer the question..."what do you want to know..". Stop being an educator and become an experience learner. I do not think universities offer a Ph.D in learning....too bad!

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dvk said...

It seems lately I have heard teachers talking about the benefits of going back to the 3R's and removing the extras from education. Get back to the basics. Dewey suggested that learning should not only take place in school but out of school. It is a continuous process through experience. I agree with Norman, this is about learning not teaching. Let students learn and have the teacher guide student's learning. Self-directed learning, interesting!