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Tag: prediction (Page 2 of 3)

Still Waiting For The Revolution

While performing one of those periodic and necessary cleaning out of drawers and boxes, a process where you rediscover long forgotten crap, I came across a 1992 book called School’s Out. I vaguely remember reading it and my current reading list is long enough that it’s certainly not worth a repeat.

But the description from the back cover was interesting.

Our schools are dying – suffocated by overcrowding, restrained by outmoded teaching techniques, and strangled by bureaucratic red tape. Students are dropping out in alarming numbers – and too many recent graduates lack even the most basic skills necessary to compete in today’s society.

It goes on to state that the author will provide “radical, imperative and affordable solutions” to these and other problems, “calling for no less than a complete overhaul of the American educational system while laying the groundwork for a remarkable revolution in learning that is long past due.”

Pretty sure the author didn’t make his case to more than a few of us since more than twenty years later, that “ remarkable revolution” is even farther past due.

That’s No Way to Predict the Future

Another thought from Seth Godin that he probably didn’t intend to apply to our education system but in which my warped head saw a link.

One of the problems of using the past to predict the future is that we sometimes fall in love with the inevitable coincidental patterns that can’t help but exist in any set. But that doesn’t mean that they work for predicting the future. Past performance is often no predictor of future results.

We seem to do a lot of that “it’s always worked for us in the past” kind of planning in our overly-large school district.

And it’s pretty much the foundation of everything they do a short distance up the road in Congress.

Asimov on Education

Growing up, I read a lot of the works of Isaac Asimov, and not just the science fiction. Asimov was a true renaissance man, writing and presenting on a wide variety of non-fiction topics – history, culture, math, religion, and more – limited only by what he found interesting.

The Open Culture blog recently posted one part of an interview with Bill Moyers from 1989, before the web, long before iPads, in which he discusses the impact that computers will have on learning and our education system.

Asimov is blunt and to the point with his view of how schools are not organized to benefit kids.

Now a days what people call learning is forced on you. And everyone is forced to learn the same thing on the same day at the same speed in class. And everyone is different. For some it goes too fast, for some too slow, for some in the wrong direction.

A few minutes later, Moyers comments on Asimov’s assessment of American schools when he remarks that “[l]ike prison, the reward of school is getting out”.

So has anything changed in twenty three years? Possibly it’s become worse as the curriculum is being locked into preparation for standardized testing.

Anyway, in the rest of this short section, it’s interesting to hear Asimov’s predictions of how computers, which then were then still large boxes sitting on desks and hard wired to a network (if they were networked at all) through a dial-up modem, would fundamentally alter how people learned.

He gets a few details wrong, but most of his thoughts are quite accurate and very optimistic.

Looking into The Future

The latest edition of the Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview is with Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist who is one of the great living explainers of science. (One bit of evidence for that opinion is his talk from several years ago, The World in 2030.)

In the article he offers some predictions for the next hundred years, based on content from his latest book, including the little gem that “By 2020, the word “computer” will have vanished from the English language.”

Anyway, while Kaku’s thoughts about science and how it will impact the future are very interesting, I really loved his pithy comments on education and the value to society created by certain jobs.

“I have nothing against investment banking,” Mr. Kaku says, “but it’s like massaging money rather than creating money. If you’re in physics, you create inventions, you create lasers, you create transistors, computers, GPS.” If you’re an investment banker, on the other hand, “you don’t create anything new. You simply massage other people’s money and take a cut.”

It’s a shame, because Mr. Kaku believes humans are natural-born scientists. “When we’re born, we want to know why the stars shine. We want to know why the sun rises.” But then we hit “the danger years” for young people: high school. “And we lose them by the millions–literally by the millions. Why? It’s a combination of bad teachers and no inspiration.”

I would only add to that combination the science curriculum, not just in high school, with it’s heavy emphasis on memorizing facts instead of experimentation and discovery.

The Miracle, Education-Altering iPad (Maybe)

Ok, the iPad was announced yesterday and, as far as I can tell, the world remains pretty much the same.

I’ve watched the video of the presentation, read some of what the geeky tech blogs have to say, and, at this point, I’m 80% sure I’ll be buying one when they go on sale.

I know, I know, the device has it’s shortcomings (oversized iPhone? so what?), there will soon be cheaper competitors, and Apple will probably release a new version with more features in time for the next holiday season.ipad.jpg

It still looks like a very cool device – and sometimes you just can’t explain the iWants. :-)

However, included with the many, many stories about Apple’s latest object of tech lust (including the front page of the Post!?) are some breathless predictions of it’s potential effect.

This tablet will save the newspaper industry! It will revolutionize electronic books!! The iPad will transform education!!!

Crap!

As with any other new technology, it’s not the hardware and software that matters.

Putting a digital version of The New York Times on the iPad will not convince people to pay for it again unless they convince them of some compelling new value in that format.

In the case of education, nothing gets transformed if institutions latch on to it as a textbook replacement, a digital notebook, an expensive electronic replacement for a Trapper Keeper.

Change in how teachers teach and students learn will not flow from putting the same old curriculum materials on a tablet and then using it with the same teacher-directed lessons, primarily focused on preparing kids for standardized tests.

Mobile communications devices such as the iPad will only have an impact if they become individual learning platforms that regularly change to meet the needs of the person carrying it.

Anything less, is simply one more gadget for the school toy box.

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