During the industrial economy, schools’ primary mission was to graduate the masses from high school. Teachers employed a curriculum of basic skills that they blended daily with a mix of rigid conformity, obedience, and punctuality. A prosperous path waited at the end of the high school rainbow, generally in a plant taking orders from a foreman or in an office filled with repetitive tasks. The cognitively and economically elite attended examination schools or private schools and engaged in a curriculum based on critical thinking and problem-solving. A seat at the tables of power and/ or prestige awaited them at the end of college or graduate school.
The sunlight of educational opportunity beamed brightly on women and minorities during the latter part of this economy. Enjoying increased ACCESS to education, these groups began to complete high school and/or to attend college in greater numbers than in previous decades. Doing so empowered more Americans, including me, to participate in the greatest economic expansion America has ever known.
Journeying from Providing Access to Ensuring Achievement
Eventually, the sunlight of the industrial economy was switched off as a new economy emerged. A technological, innovation-based global economy moved the education bar from providing access to education to ENSURING achievement. Now ALL groups are expected to be provided with a critical thinking, problem-solving (Common Core) agenda. Educating EVERYONE to a single, uniform standard is a feat that has never been attempted at scale. Reforms abound across the land as all school districts hustle to meet the new and increased educational demands of the new economy.
Bridging the Abyss
Almost once a week I participate in a virtual chat that focuses on strategies to bridge the abyss between the old and the new models of teaching and learning. Technology’s role is always part of the conversation. Apps, tablets, software, videos, social media are the new next thing to disrupt the industrial model of education and to usher in one that is more student-centric. Every school district in America has jumped on the technology bandwagon without any solid proof (data) that it improves learning, improves test scores – ensuring achievement over the long haul.
Even with talks of fiscal cliffs and sequestration, school districts spend limited tax dollars to purchase the latest and greatest technology for its students in a desperate hope that it will give them an advantage in an increasingly competitive and technological world. Even as teaching positions are downsized, librarians (media specialists) positions eliminated, the arts decimated, nothing has slowed the technology march.
Just how important is technology to preparing students for the new bounds of prosperity drawn by the competitive forces of globalization?
In Part II, I will provide insight from an Owl Mountain perspective.