I recently attended the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s National Summit on Education Reform. This event, like many others, stimulates new ideas and concepts that inspire and challenge me. The conference presented an array of policy ideas that are always helpful to me in my role at Chalkboard. But what really stayed with me on my plane ride home were some of the comments made by keynote speakers.
Learning may someday be as simple as swallowing a pill.
Many in the audience struggled with ideas presented by Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT media lab and the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. He recommended the abolition of age segregation, testing, and real estate taxes as the funding base for education, and private schools. His description of the OLPC and introduction of technology to kids who’ve never seen it before, however, was impactful. Currently, a staggering 300-400 million children don’t have access to schools across the globe; but provide a laptop to kids who’ve never seen one before and they will not only figure out how to turn the thing on, they will manage to get to Disney Junior with remarkable speed.
When pushed to make a prediction for the future of education, Negroponte responded that one day we may gain knowledge through more than just our senses; that one day we may also access the brain through biological means. He conjectured that he wouldn’t be surprised if soon you can pop a pill and know French, for example. (My high school self would’ve loved that!)
His prediction seemingly far fetched, pushed me to think about my day-to-day work in education policy and question whether we are preparing for a vastly different future for our kids and our schools. It seems we are spending more time focused on addressing challenges presented to us by the past. This leads me to the next presenter…
Schools as they exist today are obsolete.
Dr. Sugata Mitra is professor of educational technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK. In 2013, he was given the $1 million TED Prize in recognition of his work focused on the use of technology in education.
Dr. Mitra described the work he was doing around self organized learning environments (SOLEs), where children work in groups, access the Internet and other software, follow up on a class activity or project, or take them where their interests lead them. He posits that a group of third graders could answer any question on their own by using the Internet. He asks, “Why shouldn’t they be able to access these tools that are an ever-increasing part of their daily lives? We wouldn’t ask anyone to tell the time without looking at a clock, would we?”
As I reflected on these questions, I couldn’t help but put on my Chalkboard “hat” and ask, “Where does that leave teachers?” If we take Dr. Mitra’s theory to the next level, we are asking teachers to take on an even more challenging role—one that takes them from the “sage on the stage” to teaching children how to interpret, decipher, and apply the universe of knowledge available to the problems before them.
This means educators will need access to supports that are innovative and nimble—that help them keep pace with the accelerating rate of change we can expect in our classrooms in the coming years. At Chalkboard, we believe building a statewide system of these supports is the single-most important thing we can do to help realize that goal and begin to prepare for a future we can only imagine.
- Teacher Preparation
- Technology in Education
- Educator Workforce
- Quality Educators