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8 minutes reading time (1631 words)

An Education Future Scenario Written in 2004

Recently I was browsing some of my “older” writings and I came across a paper, Me–A Course of Study, that I wrote nearly 12 years ago (Moursund, November, 2004). It represented some of my guesses and hopes for what our educational system would look like in 2014.

The paper is a scenario—a view of education as seen through the eyes of a student just about to graduate from high school in 2014. The scenario presents a number of potential educational improvements that I thought would be well integrated into our educational system over the coming decade (2004-2014). The student intends to go to college and become a teacher.

The Story Line

The scenario is presented as a paper being written by a fictitious student, Serena Venus Chavez,  who is taking a required high school course, Me, A Course of Study.

I chose the title of this course from the elementary school curriculum materials, Man: A Course of Study (MACOS, 2009). This was an American humanities teaching program, popular in America and Britain in the 1970s. It was based on the theories of Jerome Bruner, particularly his concept of the "spiral curriculum."

Here is the first part of the 2004 scenario:

Assignment # 2: My Informal and Formal Education

Due November 17, 2014

Submitted by Serena Venus Chavez

I am writing this paper as an assignment in my high school senior year Capstone Projects Course, “Me, A Course of Study.” Because this is a required course, I didn't think that I would like it. However, this course is turning out to be one of the best courses I have had in school. It is causing me to think about some things that are important to me. (I'm not saying this just to try to get a good grade. This really is a worthwhile course!)

The assignment suggests that I start by specifying my intended audience and stating the message that I am trying to get across. The assignment also says that I am to do some research, not just make up everything off the top of my head. I have to have a bibliography.

My audience is people who want to be teachers and people who are already teachers. My message is that education can be a whole lot better than it currently is, and that I have some ideas the audience should pay attention to. Many of these ideas come from my own educational experiences and from communicating with other students throughout the world.

Grade School

When I started school, I was eager to show off to the teacher and to the other kids. I told the teacher that I knew how to read. So, the teacher gave me a story to read out loud. Disaster! I hadn't heard the story before, and so I could not read it. It turns out that I have a good memory and I could read to my mom because I had memorized the stories she had read to me.

By the end of the second grade, the teacher told my mother that I was reading a year behind grade level, and that she should spend some time helping me during the summer.

Finally, in the third grade a reading specialist figured out my problem. He said that my brain works differently than that of people who find it easy to learn to read. He said that I was really smart and good at solving problems, but that I was dyslexic. Of course, I had never heard this word before, but now I know it well.

Three things came out of this. First, I was put into a special reading class where a computer hooked to the Internet did the instruction. The software came from a company called Scientific Learning Corporation, and this company still exists (Scientific Learning Corporation, n.d.). They develop brain-based teaching and learning software. I am sure that some of this software can teach a lot better than a teacher. (This does not dissuade me from wanting to become a teacher. Humans can teach lots of things better than computers.)

Second, my mom bought me a laptop computer and the school let me use it whenever I felt it would be helpful. Third, I got to have extra time whenever I was taking a test, and I got to use my computer when I was taking tests that involved doing writing. All of this has helped a lot. I am a good student and a wiz at writing using a word processor and looking up stuff on the Web. But, I am still dyslexic, reading is a painfully slow process for me, my handwriting is terrible, and I am a terrible speller.

When I was doing research for this paper, I spent some time on the Web reading about dyslexia. I learned that even before I started school there was a test that could be given to kindergarten students that identifies dyslexia and other potential reading problems. Even then there was a computer program that worked really well for kindergarten students. The stuff I read said that use of the program actually changes a young child's brain—it cures dyslexia.

Wow! I sure wish that my school had known about this while I was in kindergarten! It turns out that this could have happened, if my teachers had been better prepared. For some reason my teachers just didn't seem to know how to recognize dyslexia, even though this topic had been extensively researched for more than a hundred years and there were some really good books on the topic (Shaywitz, n.d.). In those days, kids who had dyslexia and other major learning disabilities usually weren't identified until the third grade or later.

This beginning is followed by Serena Venus Chavez’s reminisces of her school and life experiences in middle school and high school. There is a strong emphasis on computer technology coming into routine use in the schools and in her life.

My 2016 Thoughts

Throughout my very long career as a “computer educator,” I have been overly optimistic about how rapidly computer technology would become a common tool in schools, both as an aid to teaching and learning, and as an aid to solving the problems and accomplishing the tasks being addressed in the curriculum. When I wrote my 2004 scenario, I used only ideas about computer technology that had already been well developed and/or that were on the near horizon. The capabilities of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have improved dramatically over the past dozen years. Progress in Artificial Intelligence has been slower that I had anticipated, but in the past few years the pace of progress has exceeded my expectations. (And, I believe the best is yet to come.)

The scenario mentions dyslexia, but makes relatively little mention of the overall discipline of Brain Science. This field has blossomed during the past decade and continues to make very rapid progress (Moursund, 2015). I see no excuse for not doing a much better job of early detection of a wide variety of brain differences/defects and making a concerted effort to better address these problems.

Clearly, I did not foresee the huge increase in emphasis on high-stakes state and national tests, and on comparing U.S. students with students in other countries. I was well aware of authentic assessment and the work of Grant Wiggins and other leaders in this movement, and I assumed this movement would continue to grow.

Quoting Grant Wiggins (Mueller, n.d.):

[Authentic assessment involves using] engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field.

Although the designers of today’s high stakes testing are familiar with authentic assessment, they are still strongly driven to design easily scored instruments that focus on curriculum content. This in turn leads teachers to teach to the tests and to the specifics of test taking, while students may come to believe that a major goal in education is to score well on such tests. Think about the challenge of assessing and ranking a national or global collection of papers such as the one written by Serena Venus Chavez!

What You Can Do

As you think about the precollege schooling of today’s students, keep in mind that this schooling is laying the groundwork for an average life expectancy of well over 60 years beyond high school. What can our K-12 educational system be doing that helps to better prepare students for the current and increasing pace of technological change, and also to deal with issues such as global warming and sustainability that are affecting quality of life of the people of our world?

I have recently developed some general ideas about What You Can Do. (Moursund, 2016a; Moursund, 4/16/2016). I view each person as a lifelong learner and a lifelong teacher. As an adult, you are largely responsible for your own ongoing education, and you contribute to the education of every person you interact with. Please think about these responsibilities to yourself and others as you continue to deal with the changes going on in our world (Moursund, 2016b).

References and Resources

MACOS (2009). Man: A course of study. Retrieved 4/20/2016 from http://www.macosonline.org.

Moursund, D. (2016a). What you can do. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 4/20/2016 from http://iae-pedia.org/What_You_Can_Do.

Moursund, D. (2016b). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 4/20/2016 from http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.

Moursund, D. (4/16/2016). What you [and others] can do. IAE Blog. Retrieved 4/20/2016 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/what-you-and-others-can-do.html.

Moursund, D. (2015). Brain science. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 4/20/2016 from http://iae-pedia.org/Brain_Science.

Moursund, D. (November, 2004). Me, a course of study. Naperville, IL: Learning Point. Available online at http://iae-pedia.org/Me-A_Course_of_Study.

Mueller, J. (n.d.). Authentic assessment toolbox. Retrieved 4/20/2016 from http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm.

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Saturday, 15 August 2020

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