A Brief History of the Future of Education: Learning in the Age of Disruption
Publication Year: 2019
The Future Tense of Teaching in the Digital Age The digital environment has radically changed how and what students need and want to learn, but have we radically changed how we deliver education? Are educators shifting and adapting or stuck in the traditional That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It world? In this book, educators will be challenged to take action and adapt to a split-screen classroom--thinking and acting to accommodate today’s learners versus allowing traditional practices by default. Written with a touch of humor and a choose-your-own-adventure approach, the authors built chapters to be skimmed, scoured or searched for interesting, relevant or required material. Readers will be able to jump in where it serves them best. • Consider predictions about what learning will look like ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: BEYOND “THAT’S THE WAY WE’VE ALWAYS DONE IT”
- Chapter 2: WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR OUR STUDENTS
- Chapter 3: LIFE IN THE AGE OF DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION
- Chapter 4: THE NINE CORE LEARNING ATTRIBUTES OF DIGITAL GENERATIONS
- Chapter 5: HOW TO LOOK BACK TO MOVE FORWARD
- Chapter 6: LEARNING IN THE YEAR 2038
- Chapter 7: NEW SKILLS FOR MODERN TIMES
- Chapter 8: NEW ROLES FOR EDUCATORS
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For my wife, Nicky. I want to express my deepest and most sincere appreciation for pushing me to stay the course and get this book done on the many occasions when I wanted to give up.—Ian Jukes
For my wonderful family—Rachel, Connor, and Ben—for their love and support. And for my mother, Susan; my late father, Stephen; and my sister, Kristy—your guidance and patience helped me develop into the man I am today.—Ryan L. Schaaf
There’s today, and then there’s the future.
We grow up with assumptions about how the modern world works. We live in and adapt to the guides and resources we hope will lead us to jobs and money and homes and families and happiness. We are surrounded by clues about how life works and hints of what we need to do to achieve our desired results. Life ahead appears very promising.
And then, just like that, things change—quickly—and a lot! Change in our families; change in our communities; change in our world!
It’s easy to say that we have to adapt, but it’s harder to actually change. The changes in our lifetime are the result of the emergence of the new digital landscape. Inexpensive and powerful digital tools have fundamentally transformed the way we work and the way we play in the world in which we live. I look at all the activities I do on a daily basis with my digital tools and wonder how I ever did without them.
Let’s consider just a few of these dynamic changes. Using today’s digital tools and the Internet, we can now manage our online accounts without ever stepping into a bank. We can shop without ever leaving the comfort of our home. A person with a smartphone and the necessary research skills can easily be the smartest person in the room. We can travel to far off places without ever flying in a plane, boarding a train, or going on a road trip. We can develop friendships with countless people who we might never meet in person. We can spend hours of our time watching funny and creative videos on YouTube; as well as effortlessly producing our own multimedia creations. The possibilities are endless. We can do things today that would have seemed unimaginable even a decade ago. And because this all seems to have happened so quickly, it can feel absolutely overwhelming. It’s certainly true for me.
And these dramatic changes and their implications for our futures can seem insurmountable. Newspapers have been replaced by websites and social media feeds. CDs and MP3 players have been replaced by anytime, anywhere streamed music. DVDs used to provide much of our video entertainment, yet they have quickly been dethroned by Netflix. Paper books are rapidly being replaced by e-readers and iBooks. Many of us are in denial even as this continues to happen right before our very eyes. It’s like a huge bulldozer knocking down our longstanding perspectives.
Because we are human, we fight the inevitable and visible changes at both the unconscious and conscious levels. We have deeply embedded memories of how things were when we were growing up. Take schools for example. Even though [Page x]an everyday, taken-for-granted tool in our lives is access to digital devices connected to the internet, we continue to structure schools the way it has always been organized—the same organizational structures, roles, emphasis on content, and schedules that have traditionally been used. The challenge of change is that taking a traditional approach increasingly doesn’t work. That’s why it’s time to rethink schools. It’s time to rethink learning. It’s time to use modern tools and thinking to cultivate next generation learning skills that will help transform existing educational paradigms.
When my children were young, I discovered they were far more attracted to educationally oriented programs that resembled real people. Every time the graphics got more realistic, and the voices sounded less like C3PO and more like Mr. Rogers, the more they were attracted to their devices. It was as if they were friends. They learned from their devices and software because the tools and the media catered to their interests—customized and personalized for their individual consumption. While we’ve made incredible progress, we still have a great distance to go to make the tools indistinguishable from humans.
The future of our nation is in the hands of today’s learners. It’s in the values, social methodologies, and ways of arriving at solutions that define the world as we know it. Yet, for any number of reasons, education seems to be struggling coming to terms with the new digital world. Even many young teachers today struggle because, as students and student teachers, they were brought up in the traditional educational system. As a result, students often unconsciously revert to the expectations, experiences, and assumptions of their teachers, and don’t develop the modern mindsets increasingly necessary for the new digital landscape.
I look at students today and marvel at how intuitively they use digital tools in their everyday lives outside of school. Then, I think of the possibilities for a class of 30 young students. Today, as it has long been, a presentation from a teacher is typically fixed for all of the learners in a class. They all get the same presentation of material. Then, a test is used to provide a variable grade that sorts the students out primarily on their ability to memorize. If a student happens to be on the low-end during their early years, they frequently don’t value their education and often come to assume that they can never compete with others who are good at memorizing things.
Now, imagine the same scenario with 30 digital devices acting as 30 personalized teachers. Imagine a learning environment that permits every student to progress at a different rate for different subjects. Imagine a learning environment shaped by personal interests and abilities. Imagine a learning environment designed to enhance competency for every student until they have mastered all of the essential skills and content for each subject area. If learners decide to earn straight As, this is an environment that can assist them in their goals. If learners want to go deeper into a particular subject, this environment can empower them. In traditional learning, when time is the constant, learning becomes the variable. When device-supported learning becomes the constant, time becomes [Page xi]the variable. Creating these types of learning environments has the potential to overcome the traditional paradigms of schools. The big challenge is not the potential of digital tools to accomplish this, but rather overcoming the traditional mindsets that become the obstacle to allowing this to happen.
Many people talk about the need to teach thinking rather than memorization. The challenge is that, in many schools, we learn very early not to question ideas too deeply. We don’t open up cabinets to satisfy our curiosity about what’s inside. We don’t spend time on topics that we find interesting. Rather, there’s specific curriculum that must be covered. And we learn continually that there is only one right answer—an answer that is the same for everyone. It’s usually a negative factor to ask why something is so. We learn to calculate when two trains will meet on the tracks—something we’ll never need in life, but very few students ever raise their hands to ask why they are learning this, or what possible connection this has to their everyday lives.
Also, I worry most about turning off the creative instincts that our children are born with, by not letting them follow their passions and hearts. Traditional learning involves each student of the class, doing the same exact thing as his or her classmates. Too early in their lives many students give up on education, because a couple of students are the “smart” ones with all the right answers first. Or they come to learn that thinking is not what gets you called smart in school; just memorizing answers for the most part—the same as everyone else.
If we break down enough educational barriers, we can also undo a lot of the effect of what class you are born into. Your ability to excel won’t be determined by which school you attend. It will be a more equal playing field. But we can’t lose students at age 8 who decide that education isn’t their strong point. Things like today’s grading methods get in the way. Letting every student take as much time on anything they want to learn to reach A+ status will keep so many from dropping out by high school.
Hopefully, in the future, learners will have the opportunity to develop the skills needed to exploit all this random information and apply it to solve real-world problems. The tools on this path will include programming and communication skills, along with multimedia talents. Words can say so much, but the way ideas are presented to others is what amounts to real communication. These are the skills that should be emphasized in schools of the future. The future?
The future is here today.
This is exactly what Ian and Ryan examine in A Brief History of the Future of Education. They consider the unconscious mindsets we are so comfortable in maintaining, and how change can sneak up on us and give us a swift kick in the assumptions. The challenge we face is that change is inevitable, sneaky, disruptive, and accelerating.
Reprogramming education to reflect modern times requires schools to embrace the challenge of change by supporting today’s learners and leveraging their passions and digital learning preferences. It’s time for education to refocus [Page xii]its energies into helping our learners develop the essential next-generation skills and habits of mind they will need to thrive in modern times. That’s what this book is all about. Enjoy!!!
Steve Wozniak is an inventor, electronics engineer, programmer, philanthropist, teacher, and technology entrepreneur who, together with Steve Jobs, co-founded Apple Inc. He is known as the inventor of the personal computer, as well as the first universal remote control. Some of his many awards and accolades include the National Medal of Technology, induction into the Inventors and the Consumer Electronics Halls of Fame, and a Hoover, Heinz, and Isaac Asimov Science Award. He is currently reprogramming educational thinking with the launch of his personalized learning service Woz U. In his “spare” time, Steve was part of the team that created Segway Polo.
Ian wishes to thank his colleagues Glenn Nowosad, Dr. Brian Chinni, Frank Kelly, Andy Rankin, Michael Strahan, George Saltsman, Dr. Fran Murphy, and Dr. Bob Thompson for their guidance, encouragement, and, above all, friendship. And to Ryan—thanks for your endless persistence and optimism.
Ryan commends the faculty and students of Notre Dame of Maryland University for their mission to transform the world. Also, a special thank you to Ian and Nicky for being such incredible colleagues and mentors. Finally, Ryan thanks the learners of today. May their futures be ripe with prosperity and creativity.
A special thanks to Steve and Janet Wozniak for their patience, support, and understanding during the long process of getting A Brief History of the Future of Education to publication.Publisher’s Acknowledgments
Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:
- Clint R. Heitz, Instructional CoachBettendorf, IA
- Kurt Nyquist, Elementary Principal (PreK–4)Centre Hall, PA
- Dr. Virginia E. Kelsen, Executive Director (High School District), Career ReadinessOntario, CA
- Dr. Emily McCarren, High School PrincipalHonolulu, HI
- David G. Daniels, High School PrincipalConklin, NY
- Dave Ramage, K–12 Director of Integration for Learning and Instruction at the district levelPottstown, PA[Page xiv]
About the Authors
Epilogue[Page 151]Where We Begin
It is the business of the future to be dangerous. The major advances in civilization are processes that all but wreck the societies in which they occur.—Alfred North Whitehead (1967)
One of the most significant challenges we face is that in disruptive times, society no longer measures the long term in centuries, decades, or even years—sometimes dramatic changes happen in a matter of months, weeks, days, or even hours. We live in a time wherein change is accelerating so much that we only really begin to see the present when it is already disappearing into the past.
As a result, our biggest challenge, both professionally and personally, is and will continue to be not just acknowledging but also accepting the scale of change we all face. We are experiencing change that is happening so rapidly that even the very nature and definition of change is changing. But when changes occur rapidly, as is the case here, we often tend to want to hang on to old ideas, TTWWADI mindsets, traditions, and worldviews.
In planning and writing this book, our greatest fear has and continues to be that, despite society’s very best intentions to do what is right for its children and nations, educators and education stakeholders are unintentionally doing a terrific job of preparing students for a world that increasingly does not exist.
If we do not reinvent education, we, as nations, organizations, communities, and individuals, will not be prepared to face a future that will be complex, disruptive, and fraught with massive change and innovation. That is the real challenge that education and educators face. We acknowledge that change is hard, and we know that sometimes the challenge of change can seem utterly overwhelming. So, how do we deal with such fast-paced change? How do we deal with TTWWADI? How do we deal with terminal paradigm paralysis?
We both passionately believe that, as educators, this cannot be about us, our issues, needs, or comfort zones; rather, this is about our students and children and our hopes, dreams, and prayers for their futures. They may only be 20 percent of the population, but they are 1,000 percent of the future of every country. If we don’t maximize students’ opportunities to succeed, we fail as a society. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we are going to sustain our economies with McJobs and McSkills. Futurist Bob Hughes’s quote in Chapter 3 bears repeating, “In the culture of the 21st century, everything from the neck down will be [Page 152]minimum wage” (personal communication, 1996). Everything that can be automated, turned into hardware or software, outsourced, or offshored will pay minimum wage. So, we have a choice—either our citizens have high-level skills, or they get low wages. If they don’t develop those skills in our schools, we have failed them.
We hear complaints all the time that kids today are different and that our schools aren’t what they used to be. Frankly, we believe the problem with our schools is that they are what they used to be. Culturally, cognitively, and socially, the digital generations are different from their predecessors, but structurally, our schools are just like they were in the 20th century.
If we are going to help our learners prepare themselves for their futures and not just their parents’ past, we are going to need new ways of educating within our schools. More than that, educators are going to need new mindsets. Economic, technological, informational, demographic, and political forces have and continue to transform the way people live and work. These changes and the rate of change will continue to accelerate. Our schools, just like our businesses, communities, and families, must continually adapt to changing conditions not to just survive, but to thrive. We need new schools for the new world. Schools that will prepare learners for life after school and the rest of their lives.
As educators, our challenge is not just to maintain what is or has been. Our job is also to shape what can be, what might be, what must be. We acknowledge that it is normal to be overwhelmed. The change process is messy and doesn’t happen overnight.The Committed Sardine
Change is hard, and it is very easy to become overwhelmed by the challenges we face every day. Whenever Ian feels overwhelmed, he likes to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California—the world’s greatest aquarium, in Ian’s humble opinion. During one such visit, the gift shop was showing a video about blue whales. Blue whales are the largest mammals on the planet. A blue whale weighs more than a fully loaded 737 airplane. It is the length of about three school buses put end-to-end. It has a heart the size of Volkswagen Beetle and a tongue that is eight feet long. A single adult blue whale consumes four tons of krill a day (whalefacts.org). Experts estimate that a baby blue whale gains fifteen pounds an hour during its first year [Page 153]of life. Another little-known fact about blue whales is that they are so mammoth that if one is swimming in one direction and wants to turn in another direction, it takes it three to five minutes to turn 180 degrees. A very strong parallel can be drawn between blue whales and our existing school systems. Both seem to take forever to turn around.
If you walk past the video on blue whales in the gift shop, turn to the left, and walk about fifty yards farther on, you come to what Ian considers to be the absolute centerpiece of the Monterey Bay Aquarium—a ten-story, all-glass tank, inside of which the aquarium staff placed many of the creatures that are indigenous to the Monterey Bay. If you’ve ever read Cannery Row (Steinbeck, 1945), you will know that in the first half of the 20th century, twice a year, in the inner Monterey Bay, there used to appear, out of nowhere, schools of fish—actually schools of sardines—that were the length, the width, and the depth of city blocks. Schools of sardines that had a mass not of one, two, or three blue whales but of a thousand (McCain & Jukes, 2000).
There is a fundamental difference between the way a blue whale turns around and the way a school of sardines turns around—which is instantly. How do the sardines do it? How do they know when to turn? Is it extrasensory perception? Is it Twitter? Are they using Facebook or Snapchat? Because Ian was curious, he pressed his nose against the glass of the tank and looked inside at the massive school of sardines that was swimming around inside. At first, the sardines appeared to be all swimming in the same direction. However, after a while, as his eyes adjusted to the light, he began to realize, slowly at first, that at any one time, there would be a small group of sardines swimming in another direction—and when they did, they caused conflict, discomfort, and distress.
When the school reached a critical mass of truly committed sardines—not 50 or 60 percent of the sardines who wanted to change but 10 to 15 percent who truly believed in change—the rest of the school instantly turned and followed. This is exactly what has happened since the 1960s with society’s perspectives on things such as tobacco, the unacceptability of drinking and driving, the emergence of social media, or concern about climate change. Each one of these attitude shifts seemed to happen overnight, but in fact, they were all years in the making.
Our question is, Who among you is willing to become a committed sardine? Who among you is willing to swim against the flow, against conventional wisdom, against our long-standing and traditional TTWWADI-based practices and assumptions about education, and begin to move our schools, learners, and [Page 154]communities from where they are to where they need to be? Margaret Mead (1901–1978) is often quoted as saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world—indeed it is the only thing that ever has” (2005, p. 12). We heartily agree.
The bottom line is that change doesn’t start with your president or prime minister. It doesn’t start with your governor or premier. It doesn’t start with your mayor or county executive. It doesn’t start with your superintendent or your principal. Change starts with you. Change starts with us. Change starts here. Change starts now. We can’t all change at once, and we can’t just wait for everyone else to change first. The longest journey starts with a single step; the greatest movement starts with a single individual. If it is going to be, it is up to me, it is up to you, it’s up to all of us together.
If we are going to uncover the full intellectual and creative genius of all our nations’ learners, it is you—it is educators and educational leaders—who are going to make it happen. You have the hardest jobs in the world. That’s because you are the facilitators of knowledge for millions of students who are growing up in the Knowledge Age. Modern education alone stands in the gap between their present and their future, between their failure and their fulfillment. So, you must believe us when we say that it is your energy—it is your passion—it is your creativity, commitment, and hard work every day that build a bridge so that our nations’ students can cross the gap between the present and the future. As our students cross that gap, so do entire nations. You are the world’s greatest hope—you are its most important professionals!
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