Wikinomics and the Future School

As co-chair of my district’s committee on Best Practices and Emerging Technologies, I have been doing considerable thinking about the ways that the "positive deviants" within our existing system can make the changes necessary for our students to emerge as life-long learners, critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and responsible citizens of our 21st century (okay, I might as well say it) "flattening world."

To that end, I have been conducting a fair bit of research.  I must suggest a fascinating book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.  It is a comprehensive look not so much at how industry is evolving but how it has already evolved in the ubiquitous collaborative (okay, I’ll do it again)  flattening environment of Web 2.0 

The authors even wrote the book collaboratively – on a wiki – and maintain a blog, wiki, and other online collaborative spaces. 

In November 2006, Will Richardson blogged about the book before its release.  He took a little creative license and applied a powerful passage to education (note: original text appears in brackets):

For smart schools [companies], the rising tide of mass collaboration
offers vast opportunity…Schools [Companies] can reach beyond their
walls to sow the seeds of innovation and harvest a bountiful crop.
Indeed, educators [firms] that cultivate nimble, trust-based
relationships with external collaborators are positioned to form
vibrant classroom [business] ecosystems that enhance learning [create
value] more effectively than hierarchically organized schools
[businesses].

I find that a telling statement about how much education is lagging behind industry.  If you were fortunate enough to catch Will’s opening keynote at PETE&C, he referenced an interview with Alvin Toffler, Future School, that appeared in the February 2007 issue of Edutopia.  When asked about the need for customizing the educational experience Toffler said the following:

In our book Revolutionary Wealth, we play a game. We say,
imagine that you’re a policeman, and you’ve got a radar gun, and you’re
measuring the speed of cars going by. Each car represents an American
institution. The first one car is going by at 100 miles an hour. It’s
called business. Businesses have to change at 100 miles an hour because
if they don’t, they die. Competition just puts them out of the game. So
they’re traveling very, very fast. Then comes another car. And it’s
going at 10 miles an hour. That’s the public education system. Schools
are supposed to be preparing kids for the business world of tomorrow,
to take jobs, to make our economy functional. The schools are changing,
if anything, at 10 miles an hour. So, how do you match an economy that
requires 100 miles an hour with an institution like public education? A
system that changes, if at all, at 10 miles an hour?

I think both Toffler and the Tapscott-Williams team are stating precisely the "crisis" in which education currently finds itself.  Education is evolving too slowly to maintain its relevance in the 21st century.  We all know from our study of science what happens to organisms that fail to adapt to their changing environment . . .

It is a scary thought to say the least especially when the best and most respected minds are calling for an entire overhaul of the education system. 

Back to my district committee . . . my co-chair and I distributed copies of the Toffler interview.  We were interested to see what our teachers thought of Toffler’s inspired, yet certainly controversial, vision of a Future School made possible in large part by technology:

  • Open twenty-four hours a day
  • Customized educational experience
  • Kids arrive at different times
  • Students begin their formalized schooling at different ages
  • Curriculum is integrated across disciplines
  • Nonteachers work with teachers
  • Teachers alternate working in schools and in business world
  • Local businesses have offices in the schools
  • Increased number of charter schools

By your association with the Discovery Educator Network, you have proven yourselves to be the positive deviants in your educational systems.  So, I toss the question out to you.  What is your vision of a relevant and rigorous school for the future and how can technology help make your vision a reality?

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One Comment;

  1. Steve Dembo said:

    Wow, that’s a heavy way to start the day! I just got a copy of Wikinomics from Coni and was looking forward to reading it, now even more so.

    In my mind, the school of the future doesn’t have subjects, it has skills. Logical process, critical thinking, and innovation for examples. If you want to know how to build a skyscraper, then you’re going to be learning quite a bit of geometry in the process. But you’ll also be learning physics, algebra, graphic design, and so on… The biggest emphasis should be on how they learn the parts they need to know, but don’t know yet. That’s the skill that can be applied to any situation in any subject. Knowing how to learn.

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