I continue to be amazed when I read comments to stories like the one in Saturday's New York Times. While many comments thoughtfully considered the Singapore math program and how it might work in the United States, a number of comments lamented for the good old days--just go back to the 30s and 40s and all will be well.
Lately I have been more explicit when I talk about the structure of public education. The system we have today is still largely based on the mass production model of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no naturally occurring laws that governed the creation of that educational system. People interested in education at that time simply made it up based on the what they saw in the world--mostly industrialization, immigration, and urbanization. Today, immigration is still a big issue, but we are way beyond the post-industrial age. Today, people expect mass personalization. The example I like to use: cell phones. We all got 'em. They're all different. In fact, you can't even use someone else's phone because you need the contacts in YOUR phone. Today, we need to reinvent public education to meet today's needs. Harkening back tot he 30s and 40s just won't do it.
Things are starting to change.
Howland and Levin write
The school of the future is better than the school of the past not because its students are digitally savvy or outfitted for the modern economy or Google-facile, but because it prompts, supports, and sustains student learning in traditional (as well as new) disciplines in more varied, intelligent, and effective ways. In this way, it builds upon, expresses, and improves so much of what has been true and rich about education for centuries.
Here and Now in the School of the Future talks about using technology--not for technology's sake, but to enhance learning. We are learning to use tech tools in ways that do this. Today it is less about going to the computer lab to learn how to use the computer. Instead, students are using these tools to explore math concepts, do history, and discuss literature.
We need to do everything we can to encourage innovation. In this TED talk, Steve Johnson talks about the role of networking in innovation. We need to provide time for teachers to talk with each other and encourage them to use social networking tools to create rich networks that will allow innovation to occur.