There’s no question that the world is a very different place than it was when public schooling became a common practice in North America. In fact, the rate of change itself has accelerated dramatically during this time frame.
It took us about 3000 years to get from creating our first bits of pottery to starting to record our ideas in writing (with a handful of major advances in between). It has taken us less than 300 years to go from the first steam engine to building space stations on the moon (with far too many world-changing events in the interim to list). It’s estimated that the world (at the time of writing this) produces about 5 exabytes of new information per year1 (An exabyte is a billion gigabytes, in case you missed that particular piece of new information). That’s about 37,000 times the amount of information held in the Library of Congress collection. Ten years ago, who had ever “googled” an ex-boyfriend (or girlfriend). And five years ago, would you have even known what a “wiki” was?
Within the last few generations the time-scale for massive change has become very short compared to the human life span. The world will be a very different place when we die than it was when we were born. Education not only has to keep pace with today, but create structures flexible enough to adapt for an unknown tomorrow.
The move from the industrial era into a knowledge/concept-based economy has shifted dependence on physical labour into a need for innovation, problem-solving and adaptability. Radically different approaches to work, productivity and prosperity require new approaches to learning, schools and education. Read more.
The Rise of Technology
Today’s students are the first generation to grow up with digital technology and this technology has changed the way we view knowledge, access information and relate to our world. Education needs to both capture the incredible possibilities for deep learning opportunities that new technologies can offer and prepare students to cope with the amount and speed of information at their fingertips. Read more.
Shifts in Society
Canada’s population has shifted from rural to urban, immigration has increased and we have moved away from interconnectedness with community and extended family into nuclear or single-parent family units. More women are in the workforce, and media, advertising and consumerism have exploded as major societal influences. Read more.
Before the year 1824, when the first railway engine took to the tracks, no human being (or piece of information) had ever gone faster than the speed to be had on the back of a horse. Compare that with today’s realities for the nearly 6.5 billion people who travel and share information around the world. We have not only become globally connected – on a minute by minute basis – but globally interdependent in solving world issues that threaten our well-being. Read more.
21st Century Pedagogy: Australian Educational Leader, Greg Whitby, Speaks
“In earlier periods of predictable and manageable change, the transfer of culture and the development of a prescribed range of skills, habits, and attitudes evolved from the experience of earlier generations led to forms of education that created communities based on constants, uniformity and efficiency. In periods of rapid and punctuated change these same dynamics inhibit human learning, and subsequently spawn social and economic stagnation. The challenge now is for communities to begin building new organizations for learning that handle both the skills of the past, and enables the understanding and coordination of constant change, life-long learning, diversity, and complexity. “ – John Abbott
The principle reason high schools now enroll nearly all teenagers is that we can't imagine what else to do with them.
Programs at Work
- Lyman, Peter and Varian, Hal R. How Much Information 2003?, School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley.