Who do we look to for the future of education?

Often in class we’ve bantered around about the benefits and risks of a pedagogy that is more constructivist and progressive.   The video below looks at what is happening with technology and education in the emerging world.   It’s rather interesting but poses some daunting questions for us to think about the purpose of education.

In the video Leadbeater speaks of the need for the education to “pull” the student to something practical and useful rather than the “push” of a formal curriculum.   In many places around the country especially urban settings there is a renewed push for vocational education or the teaching of immediately employable skills?

While the concept is certainly wonderful I wonder though if it is good to consign a certain class of individuals to vocational education because of the zip code they live in?  Do all students deserve a truly rigorous college prep education?   These questions often lead me to think of a bigger one:  What is the purpose of education?

Every educator and every district needs to wrestle with this core question.   Why do we do what we do?   Is it to create strong citizens for a vibrant democracy?  To prepare workers for the world?  Or is it something much deeper and more profound.   In some ways I have to believe our attitude towards technology and its use are tied to our beliefs about the fundamental reasons our schools exist.


Automative vs. Informative Change in Learning

In last night’s class discussion we covered Alan November’s classifications of looking at technology in schools through the filter of either automative of informative change.   Automating with technology is doing the same things in a more efficient way.  Examples include using the computer as a $1,000 pen for writing paragraphs or simply putting class notes that were once on the board into powerpoint form.

Often these initial automative changes ended up creating new and informative uses.  An informative use in many ways shifts the traditional structure and definitions of relationships and work within learning.   A heady concept but a powerful one none the less.   In the video below you’ll have a chance to listen to some educational theories as articulated by one of the most articulate voices in the constructivist movement.

I’m not one for believing that we have to throw everything out and that some direct instruction and good old lecturing are not useful from time to time.   What I do find continuing fascinating is the quality and variety of the work that students in a constructivist classroom create.

Technology and its advocates seem to be in two camps.   There are those pushing for what Stager calls “Reform TM” that believe it will lead to lower costs.  This seems to be the dominant mode at the time with online credit recovery courses, supplementing curriculum through the Illinois Virtual School and all.   The real power though comes from how the relationships and the work can change when technology is utilized well.


1.   When you hear leaders and parents speak about technology in schools what are the primarily advocating for?   Do they want glitzy toys and access to the web or do they want the transformative relationship change that a constructivist technology rich environment can bring?

2.  We often work in this course with the presumption that these changes to a more student-centered approach are a good thing.   Are they?  Is there anything we may be losing?  Or should we be free to:  rethink everything?

The Changing Role of The Teacher

A conceptual impact of the information age rests with redefining the role of the teacher.  If world class lectures and demonstrations can readily be accessed what should classroom time be allocated for?   Take the time to read the article linked below.

Reverse Instruction

It’s often said that the presence of Web 2.0 based technologies is forcing the world of education to redefine the role of the teacher.  A term thrown around is that of the teacher “shifting from the sage on the stage to the guide by the side.”  Others have argued the more accurate term would be “designer of learning”.

Some discussion questions:

1.  What predictions do you have for the growing impact technology will have in the world of K-12 education?

2.  What are new skills teachers must have to be successful?  What is the role of the administrator in making sure these skills are present?

3.  What are the potential criticisms of the “reverse instruction model”?

Information Scarcity vs. Universal Information Access

Embedded below is a very thought provoking video from a TED talk given by Dr. Sugata Mitra detailing some of the details of his recent work.

A few discussion questions to get you started:

1.  It is really the presence of the web and universal access to information that makes this type of learning possible.   How have you seen this type of learning or these strategies impact the world of education?  Or have they?

2.  Dr. Mitra has very persuasive words regarding the power of social learning.  How true do you find this to be and in what way does it challenge some traditional pedagogies in American education?

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