The Future of Education: The ABCs vs. the EFGs

I’ve been pondering an article called “Future Ed: Remote learning, 3D screens” for a few days now.  While this article covers some interesting geeky stuff (such as ocular implants and 3-D screens), there are also some great nuggets of wisdom in there about how what we teach needs to change –   along with our technologies:

Barker pointed out that with more tech-savvy learning, the curriculum will have to change, too. He and his wife funded a five-year experiment in Chattanooga, Tenn., to create a 21st-century curriculum founded not just on learning the ABCs, but also the “EFGs”: Eco ed (“How do we interact with the planet?”), Futures ed (“How do I shape my future?”), and Global ed (“What is my relationship with other human beings?”).

Each student had to learn a 500-word vocabulary in six languages and, in sixth grade, choose one in which to be fluent, including cultural knowledge. Physical fitness focused on lifelong sports such as tennis and golf, not team activities. Grade levels were kindergarten “through competence” — that is, when students accomplished all of the program’s lofty goals, they graduated.

Personally, I get more excited about these approaches to changing education than others.  The “death to the university” concept is too much “baby and bathwater” to me, and the open education movement is too caught up in hopeless romanticism (or unhealthy bitterness) for my taste. I don’t think people in either one of these movements have really thought about what would happen if they got their way.

Think about it – you don’t want to drive across a bridge designed by someone that learned engineering through following an engineering blog do you? Or, for that matter, get operated on by a surgeon that learned surgery by watching a bunch of YouTube videos.  After Universities die and education goes free and open, people will begin to realize that we need to be able to prove that people learned what they needed to in order to do certain things. Then we will need to hire people to track who learned what, and those people will need a place to work and store records. We’ll go out and buy the empty college buildings, which will cost money, so we will start charging for education again. We’ll just end up right back where we started.

Or, we could listen to the people that want to reform what we have and end up in a better place overall in the end.

Anyways, the article I mentioned above covers a lot of ground in 4 pages, so give the whole thing a read with an open mind. Assessment, socialization, and realistic school reform (i.e. ideas for change that involve educators keeping their jobs) are all covered.

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