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A Time To Write…

December 16, 2006

Unless you’re living in a vacuum, you can’t help but notice that the American edubloggers are stepping up a gear on the back this article in Time magazine: How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century.

It seems that everyone from David Warlick and Will Richardson to cliotech and beetlebecky have something to say about the article. It is a call for America to wake up and realise that the future is here, and it’s time to do something about it… the skills America needs are not being taught, etc. etc. etc…

Suitably intrigued, I pointed my browser at Time, watched the advert, and read the article.  Claudia Wallis and Sonja Steptoe, the reports authors, have done their homework… The reports opening analogy of Rip van Winkle finding comfort in the fact that schools haven’t changed in 100 years will strike a chord with many educators (and hopefully, the general public), they name-check and cite Thomas Friedman and E.D. Hirsch Jr. amongst others, they find interesting examples (the Dean of Stanford University’s School of Education telling her daughter to look things up on Google rather than memorizing them), and generally push all the right buttons… BUT…

Two things struck me about the article, one positive, the other more worrying… you see, the real story is not the content of the article, but that the article exists and has appeared in such an influential publication. As David Warlick points out, the article:

…will bring to the forefront — for one week — issues that we’ve been talking about (angsting over) for years.  There’s not much that’s new here but it is a new and unique opportunity to get some of these ideas out in front of people who still envision their own 1970s (or 1950s) classrooms when they think of education.

In one sense, he’s right… there isn’t much new in it, but then, the article wasn’t written for educators. It was written for the people who really do have to be convinced if there is to be a fundamental change in American education… the American public: parents, businessmen, students… and this brings me to the slightly more worrying thought.

For all the discussion of emerging technologies and Web2.0 that I am and have been involved in, I fear that we on this side of the Atlantic are still waiting for someone to take the discussion into the mainstream. We need an equivalent article to bring the changes that need to happen into the public consciousness, and actually, I fear it is not just the public who need to hear this message, it is also our fellow educators. Liz O’Neill more-or-less said this in a comment on my last post when she recounted a conversation she’d had with an:

…IT literate education person who found [her] description of some of the things [she’s] looking into (blogs etc) as a ‘a bit pie in the sky’.

We need to change this mindset, and quickly. We need someone in the mainstream press to start highlighting the changes. We need the conversations we are having on our blogs to be brought into the public consciousness because if we don’t, we will not be able to say that we did all we could to prepare our children for the world they will be living in…

 

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