Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time for change?

Obama's promises of change has spawned lots of ideas in every line of business and education is no exception. For example, Marc Prensky has written an open letter to Barack Obama where he argues that it is time for radical changes in the way we approach education in order to equip students with the skills necessary for the 21st century. Much the same letter could be sent to just about every world leader actually.

In a similar vein, the Hoover Institution's journal Education Next contains a discussion article by John E. Chubb, Terry M. Moe and Larry Cuban entitled Forum - Virtual schools Will education technology change the role of the teacher and the nature of learning? In general they seem optimistic that we can see major changes in education in the near future but not without a struggle.

New technology is basically disruptive to existing structures, and generally provokes strong resistance. As a result we should expect evolution rather than revolution. Often technical innovation comes from external sources (industry pressure, government initiatives etc) and teachers are not involved in the process apart from the implementation. That often leads to resistance and the innovation process fizzles out.

"Their (public educators') approach to information technology is rooted in the status quo: it is about making the existing system work better without really changing it. In the new social reality, however, this isn’t going to cut it. There will be competition. There will be pressure. There will be change."

Although almost everyone in higher education has access to the net it has still had little effect on teaching methods. It is not just a matter of implementing new technology into the existing system, the whole system needs an overhaul. Fundamental principles such as the age-graded school need to be re-examined, according to the article.

More and more students will study to some extent outside the traditional classroom model and it will eventually become the norm despite hard resistance. The core learning processes will be on the net and although there will always be a need for face-to-face interaction the traditional school model will be much more fluid.

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