Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Future Happened


I tickled myself this week when I said in a meeting "Everyone knew the future was going to happen, they just didn't think it would happen to them." I thought it was clever at the time(still do) but it had me thinking quite a bit.

Listen up teachers. When you a hear quote from someone like Nicholas Negroponte asks "Is knowing obsolete?" and Sugata Mitra talks about how it has taken humans only 10,000 years to make it obsolete,  these aren't just off the cuff statements.  There is truth in them.  It may not be 100% true, yet, but it isn't a statement you should ignore.

Online Colleges published the infographic below about a year and a half ago that can really help you understand how knowing is somewhat obsolete or is at the very least changing its form very rapidly. Google is the messy Elmer's glue holding our information together.  It is providing the connections to our entire world, past present and future.  Google is changing the way our brains work.

If I am truly honest with myself I can readily admit that my brain doesn't have to recall as much as it used to, but, what my brain does is reprocesses the answer needed from "do I know it?" to "where is it?". Example: If I was asked to answer the question "What is the capital of Oregon?" the first thing I ask myself is "what do I know about Oregon?" and that leads me to one of my first facts, Portland is the best known city in Oregon. Well, I could stop there, or I could look to confirm my assumption and find myself wrong...Salem is the capital of Oregon, not Portland.  The difference between today and 20 years ago is that I would have needed ready access to reference books(Atlas/Encyclopedia) OR I had it memorized. Today, I whip my iPhone out and ask Siri and she answers me with not just the answer but its population, a city map, local time, current weather, median home price, unemployment rate, total sales tax rate, etc. - Siri's information came from WolframAlpha.

Tell me that doesn't change your classroom.

Try changing the question to "Why isn't Portland the capital of Oregon?" and see what happens.  This time, instead of immediately responding with the answer, Siri responds with "Would you like me to search the web for "Why isn't Portland the capital of Oregon"?.  I say yes and Siri politely and efficiently performs a Google search for me.  Here are the first three hits:

1. Portland Oregon Sucks
2. Why isn't Oregon a slam dunk for President Obama?
3. 'The Real World: Portland' isn't about the city... - Oregon Live

Those hits don't sound like they have the answer I am looking for but I can read through it just in case(I might just learn something doing so even if it doesn't have the answer). By the way, the 6th response is NSFS (Not Safe for School): Vagabond Tales: Welcome to Portland, Strip Club Capital USA.

This is a much deeper question.  My search for the answer will lead me to learning much more than the name of the capital.  I will learn Oregon's location on a map, Portland's location on a map, the capital of Oregon is Salem, how far Salem is from Portland, and somewhere in Oregon's history, I will learn why Salem is the capital, and not Portland. This is deep learning.

Now, imagine your classroom asking "Why isn't Portland the capital of Oregon?" without the digital tools. How does that change the dynamics when the child can't use digital tools to find the deeper answer to the harder question?

Students KNOW where answers are! They KNOW if they can get to the "Google" they can find something!  They KNOW they can do it ANYTIME!  

It is not challenging to give the simple answer.  The simple answer is found in shallow questions.

We have to build questions that Google can't answer and frankly, it isn't all that hard.

Sugata Mitra's SOLE Toolkit is a great and simple way to get started. You don't need a 1:1 laptop program.  

Teachers, you knew the future would happen and it happened to you. So here is the big question: What DID you think the classroom of the future would look like?

Google and Your Memory

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