There is a passion for standards among today’s education system—a network of principles the public governs their curriculum by. These standards seem to transcend history; in the earliest days of public education, laborers who were trained to work in urbanized factories were taught discipline and uniformity through systematic testing. This testing demanded that individuals demonstrate a certain skill set by a specific time—a way to monitor efficiency and classify talent. As time progressed growth in the economy meant educational expansion.
As demonstrated by the image, learning became both humanities based as well as one based on education. Today many fear that education by testing is not always adequate. Cathy Davidson, author of “Now You See It,” notes that this standard is outdated, preparing kids for twentieth century jobs rather than futures in today’s digital economy (77). But in a society comforted by tradition, how does one change the dispenser of knowledge.
The pace of education reflects movements in American history—by the time World War II ended schools focused on educating the youth to become leaders and approach the future knowing that abstract concepts like space travel could be possible. Skip ahead forty or so years and you see the technology that gave promise to those ideas infiltrate our lives and the ways in which we learn new concepts. Strides in societal innovation seem to match movements made in educational innovation; however, it is incredibly difficult to get ahead of the pace of innovation. We have transitioned into collective learning and no longer have structured guidelines for teaching. Today’s society is a technology and innovation incubator. This type of education has major implications on our future; it forces us to harness new forms of attention to span our process of learning.
For the majority of our lives we have followed the rules to get the grade needed to graduate and effectively compete in the real world. But traditional educational methods do not always prepare us for today’s redefined sense of competition. As Davidson says, we now question what it means to be a “dispenser of knowledge” (71). The current generation of college students has grown up socializing online. We have become engrained in the culture of networking, challenging the ways in which education is delivered since searching and browsing seem to reign over highlighting, calculating, and turning the page of a text book. We see disruptive technology and it forces us to wonder what disruptive education is and if the current education needs to be reconstructed to do so. Davidson notes this idea of disruption—education today must continue to change in order to keep kids interested. This idea leads me to believe that education doesn’t need to be reconstructed but perhaps just iterated upon.
We already have iterated on ideas that give students greater take a ways than a passing or failing grade on a test, and have integrated the digital space to use to our advantage. This iteration process is seen in more and more classrooms today, especially those that are rooted in more entrepreneurial lessons. I am currently minoring in a series of classes that transform an idea into an actual product. In simplest terms, Information Design and Startup is a depiction of tomorrow’s type of teaching. The curriculum is built to understand that every day we are pulled from countless directions; we must sift through what is unimportant to find reasoning. Apply that concept to the ideas that happen in one’s head; we must iterate on simple ideas, collaborate with others, and break traditional boundaries to deliver something of value—that is the essence of disruptive innovation.
Looking more in depth, the internet dispenses data and information that can’t be measured or concentrated into a text book. Therefore, there is no clear and linear path through the content that bogs down the web. Knowledge is increasingly being dispensed from non-human actors; something feared in the past and leaves teachers resistant to change. The word “school” is associated with a classroom rather than a hub for trial and error, failure, and iteration. Sure, in essence, a classroom is just that, but we are so deeply rooted in this idea of traditional learning that it took until college for me to experience this disruptive process of learning. Davidson suggests that this system needs reform—a transition to more creativity and engagement. “To be prepared for jobs that have a real future in the digital economy, one needs an emphasis on creative thinking, at all levels…this creative-thinking requires attention to surprise, anomaly, difference, and disruption, and an ability to switch focus…” (77).
Today’s youth are becoming masters of surfing the web, constantly linking together bits of information to create something whole. In my own process of iteration I questioned what it would be like if we turned toward a non-human actor to make a decision that had the potential to have major implications on our futures. Enter Wallis, my own logical suggestion engine in the form of functional software. Wallis takes in account the details that may be lacking—similar to an injury to a specific part of region of the brain, functions can be assumed by the entirely different hemisphere. Wallis connects alternate pathways to network information. Davidson notes that we are turning to our digital outlets to get answers for questions that once could not be found over the web or on a social platform. We learn from our peers, those who know us best. But what if a piece of software new our likes and dislikes, our daily habits, and could readily express an answer upon one’s question without being biased? We would be able to learn through something that has had no traditional curriculum to feed off of; a creative and intuitive process reconstructing our traditional ways of learning.
Davidson is not suggesting that we transition to online classrooms and encourage our high school graduates to attend college over the Internet, but rather adopt an outlook that understands failure, critique, and iteration—something highly revolutionary, disruptive, and innovative; a dose of what traditional, twentieth century practices could integrate to harness new forms of attention among students.
“Education” By Sean MacEntee. Creative Commons 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/4984567320/lightbox/
“Multitasking”. Creative Commons 2.0. Retrieved from intro2psych.wordpress.com
“Learning versus Testing”. Creative Commons 2.0. Retrieved from zacksprojects.blogspot.com