It has been really interesting reading over the last week or so as David Warlick has developed his thoughts and ideas about "the New Story" that needs to be told to get education up to speed in the 21st century. This has evolved into his writings about the "flat classroom", which I'm finding are very timely as I wade further into Friedman's book. David says the characteristics of "flat classroom" learners are as follows:
- Self Directed Learners
- Intrinsic need to communicate
- Intrinsic need to influence
- Future Oriented
- Heritage Grounded
Now, how much technology is needed to gain these characteristics would be interesting because it's my opinion that while the Australian curriculum is better set up to foster these points than its NCLB American counterpart, our investment in supporting technologies in general, lags behind the US. Of course, that varies from state to state and district to district. Here down under, we do have common high quality internet bandwidth, restricted only by overzealous filter software but there are no whole state 1:1 student laptop programs, big ticket items like the Learning Gateway and the Learning Federation get funding preference and teachers pay for their own professional development and training. Interactive whiteboards are a luxury and seen as a new technology, and Web 2.0 is definitely not on the radar of the regular classroom practitioner here. As for Will Richardson's Tablet PC Pilot, where would that money come from? After all, a laptop initiative for teachers from a few years back is still grounded and unlikely to attract government support. It is hard to see flat classrooms unless the teachers are in on it and prepared to let go of the old command and control methods of operation. If the person at the chalkface (20th century metaphor) isn't given the time to get familiar with the new rate of flow of information, then our kids won't notice much change. As David points out, it's not about the technology BUT if the access to that information is via technology and that access is restricted either through limited opportunity or lack of vision, then the classroom is as hilly as ever with the information and teaching limited to the teacher's own world view. So, what's the New Story for Australian schools? With so many good things in place - a constructivist curriculum, pockets of innovative teachers creating new ideas and opportunities despite the odds, emphasis on thinking skills and collaboration - maybe, Australia can get it right but only if the profession takes charge of education's destiny away from the hands of politicians, no matter how well intentioned, and gets the resources and awareness back to the teachers who need it to cater for the students in their care. It is crucial, in my opinion, that skills become more important than the content. At a EdTech Talk Brainstorm late last year, I lurked in the chatroom while the skyped in particpants argued about the importance or lack of importance of learning dates. In the flat classroom, it is much more important to know how to find out about the events of history than to commit dates to memory, just in case.
Of course, the exciting thing is that now things like wikis and learning tools, etc are free to all classrooms and not just folks that can “afford it.” I teach at a small private school that is probably funded much like yours and we’ve taken 5 year old computers and used the “new” Web 2.0 social learning technologies and become cutting edge.
I think the speed of processor and OS is becoming less relevant than HOW the computers you do have are used.
I also think that the flat classroom will begin to harness the things that students use already like cell phones, iPods, and gameboys for educational use instead of fighting them. They are a great tool ripe for a good use in the classroom. I use them in mine now.