When your digital generation daughter is six she may guide you on the interactions on Facebook or show you how to leave a message on Twitter. It is a part of their lives, and it is an uncharted information resource. It is vast and it is comprehensive, but in many ways it is not vetted. Even primary information is not vetted very well. Nevertheless it is here, and the question is how well can we use it?
We are in a transitional period where we are all learning. As with any new technology there are problems of adjusting to this new cornucopia of information. The iPad and other comparable technologies can give a first grader a library of all the textbooks needed for K-12 schooling. It can be upgraded as new information becomes available. Some people reject the new technology and prefer to use the old guidelines and standards of the print on paper world. It is worthwhile to remember that Socrates worried that writing would interfere with memory. With each new technological advance we must adjust our society to its uses. We must remember that the young are more likely to use the new than the more mature. Often the older people reject the new because it is more difficult for them to understand and use. On the other hand it is second nature to the young.
The question I ask is, What will iPads and the Internet do to public education? From the late 1980s when Star Schools became a distance learning experiment, we have very rapidly developed online courses. Today most high school systems offer a blended opportunity for learning that includes some online programs. Colleges and universities offer complete degrees online. There are some virtual high schools that offer the entire curriculum via digital technologies and others that allow parts of the lessons through a distant source. Courses vary from fully digital lessons to combinations of teacher driven courses. Some courses are completely computer based programs whereas others use a live broadcast teacher.
As schools along with other aspects of society are faced with budget cuts, we are likely to see more online courses, especially in science. Science teachers are expensive and hard to find, and the distant-developed courses can often provide more in depth materials.
Digital online classes will not only supplement traditional learning, but also have the potential to alter the very model and concept of what universal public education will be. Much high-level content can be developed especially in science areas that exceed the average class-based programs. This may mean that the role of teacher changes to more of a guide, counselor or mentor.
Team learning will become a more standard activity, with students working together to solve challenges and produce projects. Each team member will contribute their unique talents to the solving of problems. One for all and all for one will become the school dynamic. Peer interactions will reinforce learning. Teams can be composed of students who are physically close, but also through social media teams may include members from distant sites. I emphasize that team learning is more than collaborative learning in that the team is a working partnership where every member is a valid and appropriate contributor to the goals of the team. More and more in the world of work individuals are having to participate in teamwork. NASA is a prime example of team building and teamwork.
Everyone from clerks to scientist to astronauts are vital team members essential to the successful completion of missions. Schools and workplaces of the future will be built on teams.
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