Education Trends

The “New” Normal

Author, blogger and educational prognosticator Will Richardson predicts huge shifts in education.

April 26, 2011

Editor's Note: Will Richardson is the author of weblogg-ed, a blog that covers the intersection of learning, technology and ed reform. A former classroom teacher in Flemington, New Jersey, Richardson is also the author of the book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council here at the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Tim Stahmer's post "There's No Normal to Return To" has me thinking this morning. He writes:

At the same time we in education are also doubling down on the "back to basics" and on teaching kids how to follow someone else's instructions. Our leaders, both political and business, want us to think that if we just combine greater effort with more standardization that we can recreate the glorious old days where every kid was above average and US test scores topped every other country.

The former, of course, is statistically impossible (only in Lake Wobegon) and the later a myth, but we spend large chunks of money, instructional time, and public discourse trying to make it happen.

So when do we acknowledge that our current education system, built to support that industrial society, also needs to change?

Good question. And even more, past acknowledging the need, when do we make it happen?

Most of the edusocialmediaverse sees a compelling need to change...but to what? What is the "new normal" in 20, 30 or 40 years?

I have little doubt any longer that it will be a "roll your own" type of education, one in which traditional institutions and systems play a vastly decreased role in the process. That the emphasis will be on learning and what you can do with it, not on degrees or diplomas or even test scores. As I Tweeted out yesterday, my new favorite quote comes from Cathy Davidson:

"'Learning' is the free and open source version of 'education.'"

I do believe that the emphasis will turn back to the learning process, not the knowing process. And while I don't think schools go away in the interaction, the "new normal" will be a focus on personalization not standardization, where we focus more on developing learners, not knowers, and where students will create works of beauty that change the world for the better. At some point, we'll value that more than the SAT.

That's my hope at least. As Gary Stager points out, it's a pretty dismal moment:

The problem with the rehab or resurrection myth was that I never anticipated the chance that American public policy regarding public education was that there IS NO BOTTOM to rise up from. It now appears that schooling and the way in which some Americans treat other people's children has no bottom. Things can and will get worse, perhaps indefinitely.

And that is the scary part, that for most kids, there is no bottom. Over the next decade, we'll see lots of kids opting out of schools as we know them, many because they feel disenfranchised or disinterested and would rather just complete the same old curriculum online, but some because there will be a growing number of "education providers" who will offer a much more personalized, passion-alized learning experience for those who can afford it. And I'm not talking here about the Amazonification of education where we're delivered content based on our interests (though that's coming too.) I'm talking about places both online and off where highly motivated kids will gather to learn under the aegis of any number of different school-type entities that look little like the current brick and mortar spaces most of us send our kids. What concerns me is what happens to those that aren't well off enough or highly motivated enough to create their own new, better paths to learning.

Tim's post references a Seth Godin post where he writes:

It takes a long time for a generation to come around to significant revolutionary change. The newspaper business, the steel business, law firms, the car business, the record business, even computers... one by one, our industries are being turned upside down, and so quickly that it requires us to change faster than we'd like.

It's unpleasant, it's not fair, but it's all we've got. The sooner we realize that the world has changed, the sooner we can accept it and make something of what we've got. Whining isn't a scalable solution.

In other words, this is going to take a while, and it's not going to be without pain. What does eventually rise from the ashes will be dependent on each of us seeing the world differently for ourselves, our willingness to lead and participate in the change, and at the end, fighting hard for what we believe is best for our kids.

This post first appeared on weblogg-ed on April 25, 2011.

Share This Story

  • email icon

Filed Under

  • Education Trends
  • Education Equity

Follow Edutopia

  • facebook icon
  • twitter icon
  • instagram icon
  • youtube icon
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
George Lucas Educational Foundation
Edutopia is an initiative of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Edutopia®, the EDU Logo™ and Lucas Education Research Logo® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.