DAILY INSIGHT: The past, the present, and the future, part 2 of 4

By Gary Shattuck, CIO Advisor

In my last blog, I laid out a thesis that our present is the result of three periods in human history in which revolutionary changes took place in the ways humans conduct their economic activities and organize their lives. These three revolutionary periods, or what I called inflection points, are the Agriculture Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Digital Revolution. In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman explained how the Digital Revolution is reshaping the world’s economies. Put into this perspective, the current changes we are experiencing are truly transformational, and the only way we have of coping with these changes is in learning how to be adaptable and learning how to be innovative.

Since I am an educator, what I will focus on is how education must also be adaptable and innovative. Although this idea is gaining momentum throughout the education sector, it is a hard idea to swallow for many educators, but if we do not adapt and innovate, public education, as it currently exists in most places, will die a show death. If you think this is hyperbole, I suggest you read Clayton Christensen’s Disrupting Class. In this book, Christensen predicts, using an algorithm he developing when analyzing businesses’ successes and failures, that by 2020 half of high school classes will be taught online. That portends a future in which the brick and mortar school is being threatened by change. I do not think that all physical school buildings will disappear, but I do believe forces beyond our control will force education to adapt its education model or wither from competition from home schools, charter schools, private schools, and online schools.

If this does not wake you up, let’s analyze our students. No longer are our students willing to sit in their seats respectfully and be bored. They want—they demand—engagement, and not engagement just for the sake of engagement; they want engagement that emanates from authentic, meaningful, and purposeful lessons. In other words, our students want their teachers to have a student-centered classroom. How many teachers are creating those kinds of lessons? When Facebook and YouTube burst on the scene in 2005 and 2006 the genie was let out of the bottle and it will never go back again. The Internet is no longer just a consumer-based platform; the Internet is now a consumer/producer-based platform. Are we allowing our student to create content on the Internet? Are we allowing our students to blog, to communication, and to collaborate with other students all over the world? As educators, this is the challenge of our time; are we teaching like we taught yesterday, or are we teaching in order to prepare our students for their tomorrow?

Wake up, education! We must find a way to be relevant to our students and our communities. We must find a way to teach our students for their tomorrow, not our past. We must innovate like Newton County, Georgia, is doing with ViewPath cameras in the classroom or like Mooresville, North Carolina, is doing with its 1:1 initiative. The status quo is no longer acceptable because change is here whether we like it or not.

Gary Shattuck is the director of technology and media services at Newton County Schools in Covington, Georgia. Follow him on Twitter as @EdTechLeader.