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"Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still." (Chinese proverb)
Your brain is always learning, even when you are asleep. Lifelong
learning is a natural process of being alive. However, what you learn
and how well you learn it is strongly influenced by your own particular
interests, drives, and learning environment.
You have undoubtedly heard the story of a person claiming, “I have
thirty years of experience on this job.” The cynical observer comments,
“Yes, one year repeated thirty times.”
Teaching is a very
challenging job because there is so much to learn and because the
amount to be learned is growing so rapidly. A teacher learns a great
deal every day in learning on the job. However, there is a great deal
of potential learning that is not readily available through one’s
routine day-to-day activities.
You know a lot about how one
gets to be a teacher. High school graduation, an undergraduate college
degree, probably some graduate work, supervised classroom experiences,
practice teaching, licensing tests—it is a long and arduous task.
has not always been the case. A high school education used to suffice
to become an elementary school teacher. Later, a two-year Normal School
degree was sufficient to become a teacher with a lifelong
certification. The requirements for teacher certification have
increased markedly over the years. Moreover, teacher certification is
no longer a lifetime certification. There are requirements for
Looking at More Current
Two major things have changed over the years. First, standards have
gone up for teachers because of the desire to set higher standards for
students. Second, the totality of accumulated knowledge, and the
complexity of life in a rapidly changing world, has necessitated much
better prepared teachers.
In the latter area, think of the
full range of information and communication technology, including
robotics, artificial intelligence, and the continuing automation of
many different intellectual tasks. Think of molecular biology at the
genetic engineering level. And, think of the complexities faced by
ordinary adults as they try to cope with day to day finances, medical
challenges, childrearing, communication, employment, taxes, and so on.
educational system has a strong tendency to use “more of the same” as
its approach to dealing with change. Require more years of schooling
for students and their teachers. Set higher standards. Fail students
(and, entire schools and school systems) that do not meet the
standards. It is always easy to find someone or some organizational
structure to blame!
After all, the goals are simple enough.
Score higher on tests and on measures of the percentage of students
graduating at various levels, such as middle school or junior high
school, high school, two-year college, 4-year college, and so on.
we can just get the numbers up. What a sorry state of affairs when
dealing with people, cultures, societies, and global problems of
Looking into the
I know of no simple solutions to types of challenges mentioned above.
However, I do have a suggestion. I suggest that each of use put is a
little time each day being futurists. Learn a little more about changes
going on throughout the world due to progress in science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics. How are changes in population, the
economy, global climate, global food and medicine supplies and their
distribution, and so on affecting sustainability?
many excellent resources. As an example, think about spending 18
minutes listening to Juan Enriquez talk about “Beyond the crisis,
mindboggling science and the arrival of Homo evolutis.” See http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_shares_mindboggling_new_science.html. Or, watch Ken Robinson’s 19 minute talk about “Do schools kill creativity?” See http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html.
spend quite a bit of time reading and writing about the future. I
summarize some of my findings in brief paragraphs about “What the
future is bringing us” available at http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.
You might want to spend some time reading and thinking about these
forecasts drawn from current publications. As you think, consider what
your students are learning about such ideas, and how your teaching is
helping to prepare your students for life in the futures that are being
Here is an example. Quoting from a December 2008
article “Virginia Tech Is Building an Artificial America in a
Supercomputer” available at http://spectrum.ieee.org/dec08/7051.
The group has designed what it claims is the largest, most detailed,
and realistic computer model of the lives of about 100 million
Americans, using enormous amounts of publicly available demographic
data. The model’s makers hope the simulation will shed light on the
effects of human comings and goings, such as how a contagion spreads, a
fad grows, or traffic flows. In the next six months, the researchers
expect to be able to simulate the movement of all 300 million residents
of the United States.
Now ask yourself questions such as the following:
“What does it mean to have a computer simulation of a very large
group of people?” (What is your personal mental model of this project’s
- Is this something relevant to your life or the lives of your students?
What do you want your students to know about modeling and
simulation—and how does this relate to the specific subject areas that
In conclusion, remember the Chinese proverb: "Do
not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still." At the end of
a school day, ask yourself: “Today, what have my students learned that
will help them to be successful in the rapidly changing futures they
About Information Age
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