Sunday, December 09, 2007

Edutopia - interview with Alvin Toffler

This is a wonderful site ( established by George Lucas of 'Stars wars' fame) to gain practical ideas for problem baaed learning integrating technology.

Forty years ago Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi set the world alight with the publication of their book Future Shock. The Tofflers have a deep belief in the power of a transformed education system to shape the hearts and minds of future youth.

In answer the question about the most pressing need in education today Toffler replied, 'Shut down the education system!Adding that he was roughly quoting Microsoft's Bill Gates.

Toffler believes we should start from the ground up rather than trying to change the present system. He believes that there are countless creative teachers but that they are operating in a system designed to produce industrial workers.

He comments that our present compulsory system is only about a 100 years old and when it was introduced many parents did not want their children to go to school - they needed them to work. After a big debate, and following rural people flooding the industrialised cities, business leaders wanted workers with 'industrial discipline'. Things like working to the clock and bell so as to be able to work on the assembly line. It was not necessary for such workers to think but to do what was prescribed.Secondary schools reflect this image to this day. Toffler believes our current schools are, 'stealing the students' futures. He asks, why is everything 'massified' rather than personalised in our system? New technologies make customisation and the necessary diversity possible.

Toffler says while businesses are changing at a 100 miles an hour schools are only changing at 10 miles an hour. Schools still use methods of teaching at the secondary level that have not changed in hundred years. Teachers from a century ago could walk into a secondary classroom and get busy. The read and remember and listen and remember style of teaching is an old paradigm. Up until now modern information technology has not been fully used to transform learning approaches.

When asked what he would do he would want to hear of lots of new ideas not the same old solutions
. He would want teachers to not be constrained by imposed expectations and impossible bureaucratic rules. Currently, he believes, 'we are holding millions of students prisoners every week' trying to achieve narrow achievement outputs.

School, he says, should be more real life. Students who have interests ought to be able to tap into people in the community and learn from with people who are passionate and excited about the same things.

Everything about school ought to be questioned.Why should schools be compulsory? When should they be open? Who could be teachers? Why are students kept in age groups? Schools today are too focused on being custodial and not enough on personalising learning. Schools ought to be integrated with their communities to be able to take advantage of community skills.

While admitting his views are utopian the main thing is to get out of your head the ways schools are structured now. Teachers parents, people outside education, should get together to rethink the shape of education. Diversity ought to be the theme not an obsession with industrialized standardization.

The biggest wall to knock down , Toffler believes, is the attitude of teachers
. Too many of them have been locked into the system and are afraid ( Toffler called this 'future shock') to change and move towards the technology that their students use out of school naturally.

Such a conversation with everyone involved,Toffler believes, would be healthy for any country to do.

Search the edutopia site and join up to receive their newsletter.

Great professional development.


Bruce said...

I really recommend the Utopia site - established by George Lucas of Starwars fame. Lots of practical ideas to develop problem based education.

Anonymous said...

You are right - great material on the Utopia site.

Bruce said...

Best site for problem based learning ideas.