Leadership Challenge–Look ahead

It’s Scott McLeod’s annual leadership challenge.   A recent post by David Jakes on his blog, Strength of Weak Ties, “Me, Obsessed?” has me thinking about the future of what we call school.  And Don Tapscott’s work in his new book, Grown Up Digital,  makes me realize how little our schools reflect the students coming into our buildings right now.

It’s like we “know” things–we know our students are more digitally inclined, we know they live online in ways we never considered, we know tv takes a back seat to multi-tasking on the internet, we know the relevance of impromptu video production and the role of our students as producers of content, we know they are wired into devices, and yet the places they learn seem to reflect this so little.

So my challenge to administrators is to begin thinking what a building would look like that would accommodate “net gen” students.  Are there informal learning spaces in your building that are ‘wired’ or is access blocked everywhere?  Are there any mobile devices in your school?  What can be easily changed about your existing buildings’ space? (See David Jakes’ post for some ideas.)   And will we even need “buildings” in the future?  If not, how will students gather and communicate?  Are we preparing for these changes which are bound to come?  Are we testing out ideas that will lead us there?    Or are we just assuming, as David Jakes notes, that classrooms won’t change that much?

Change can become viral quite suddenly and if we aren’t prepared for it, we find ourselves reacting to it.  What if we envisioned our building five years down the road, or ten?  And then added in the key component, what will our students be like ten years from now?  (Imagine that first grader who can use a laptop, Wii remote, and iPhone and then project forward ten years.)    What would we do differently in our building arrangement, remodeling, or planning to prepare for those students?

Because they are coming soon, to a school near you.

3 thoughts on “Leadership Challenge–Look ahead

  1. I think about these things when I see Pico Projectors that are going to be embedded in newer cell phones. And when I read that Google is releasing its own Operating System that may be free and run entirely on the web. The cost of a netbook is about $200 and going down in the next few months. I don’t necessarily look at just the schools and student populations for purchasing 1:1 computers. I wonder about it for the entire community of our town and to provide 1:1 learning opportunities online for the city. It just seems like we could be doing so much more if we looked beyond limits. The technology has changed our learning opportunities already but we still have blinders on.

  2. It’s very interesting to think about learning spaces and how they can encourage or discourage active learning and teaching. While I agree that educators need to consider how little our current buildings accommodate this new generation of millenials, it’s also important to consider the needs of the educators themselves as well as the communities in which these learning spaces reside. An important element of the social contract of public education is the necessity of having an actual, physical environment in which adolescents are kept busy and productive while their parents tend to other things. While the idea of a virtual classroom is appealing, in practice it could cause a slew of unforeseen problems. Likewise, what is the role of the teacher in this Brave New World? Whenever I see discussions of technology in education taking place, it often seems as though the teacher has become peripheral to the learning process. Why not just use computerized instructors to conduct virtual lessons?

  3. Carolyn,
    More food for thought about changing schools, if you haven’t yet read it: Disrupting Class by Clayten Christensen and Michael Horn.

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