Looking Past the Future of Education and Communication
I started to see the fragmentation of the organized, linear brick-and-mortar educational environment back around 1992. It was my freshman year of college at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and one of my classes relied heavily on collaboration through the University’s VAX system. Pretty much the old-school granddaddy to today’s e-mail, IM, and virtual work-groups.
Back then, we still had to do the bulk of our research at the university’s library. You know: Dewey Decimal System, index cards, those tiny yellow pencils that were always too dull to write with? Some of our work was shared online with the professor a day prior to submission, so he could keep track of our progress. I could also see the proliferation of multi-users in a virtual setting as we geeks ran MUDs and MUSHs.
But, all that system work was clunky and left to basically the highly technically savvy. That doesn’t seem to be the case now.
Now, communication for our school-aged children is fragmented, multi-layered, and instant. A picture taken with a cell phone can be uploaded to MySpace, blogged about, and commented on by a limitless number of people. All in the span of minutes.
This can greatly impact what we know, and how we approach education. Dr Michael Wesch with Digital Ethnography seems to get this (I would recommend reading his blog). I ran across this video by accident, and I would highly recommend taking the 4 minutes and 44 seconds to watch it:
Zae’s been using a computer since, I don’t know, she was two-years-old. She flies through the prompts when looking through PBSKids.org, or Noggin.com. At four, she was able to change out her DVD’s without any help. Yet, her social interactions and transitions need work. Not like she hasn’t had opportunities; she’s been in private pre-schools (some topnotch places, too, like Joyful Noise), for three years.
So how could we, as conscientious parents, really put our child in a “traditional” brick-and-mortar public school? She doesn’t thrive with 50 minute classes, or auditory/visual learning in a classroom, or the fast transitions needed to go from one subject to the next. Why set her up for failure, when we’re seeing a paradigm shift in how children learn and how they structure their day?
As it is now, I’m trying to use a more traditional approach to home-schooling while using the online K12 curriculum. Set up her lessons, teach her a single subject, have her do rote work. And it’s been a difficult and trying start-up. At the very least, it’s reinforcing our decision to not send Fae to public schools. Fae already exhibits an “Engage Me, or Enrage Me” attitude when on the computer for more than a short time.
If she is already showing – at the age of five – characteristics of how college students view technology, how they learn, how they interact; then I can’t even imagine what her life will be like, and how she processes information, when she’s college-aged. If the brick-and-mortar educational industry cannot seem to keep up with teenagers today, how can they hope to progress fast enough to be effective learning institutions 10-15 years from now?