Networked Education

Bill Vadja, CIO of the US Department of Education, joined us in Washington for our Government 2.0 launch meeting and in the spirit of fair trades I thought I’d give one of his key projects a little press. The School 2.0 initiative is led by the Director of the Office of Educational Technology, Tim Magner, and focuses on how the education system needs to proactively adapt to changes in our global economy.

You can download their nifty map here. It’s quite similar to our nifty network map shown here:

Education

Regardless of the source, what these models entail is a focus on a new, networked form of education. A model shaped by the following (amongst other) factors: 60% of new jobs require a post-secondary education; 22% of college freshmen are taking remedial math courses; allophones form a growing proportion of the workforce; and the number of college students in the U.S. choosing engineering as a major fell 20% between 1993 and 2002.

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Moreover, we’re increasingly talking about jobs that we can’t actually define. In a recent conversation with European Union Commissioner for Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla, he noted the need to adapt the European education system for jobs that don’t yet exist but for whom the skill sets needed are yet to be a regular component of the European education system. What comes first, you might ask…

So given the new set of demands being placed on the education system, what’s the solution? This discussion often gets sidetracked by mention of collective bargaining agreements, compensation, etc, but the focus needs to be on what the future of the classroom is. We’ve all grown up in a very linear learning space – Barbara Kurshan, executive director of Curriki notes, “we started at page 1, finished at page 365, and considered ourselves learned.”

But this model is increasingly giving way to a random knowledge space where we define a problem and go to multiple sources to find pieces of the answer. And while this may hold true for the manner in which students currently study, it has yet to become an institutionalized part of the classroom. Doing so would mean not only putting a computer in every classroom ala Al Gore but rather connecting students from across regions and nations to create peered/shared learning communities, where knowledge is built in up-to-date iterative cycles, with the teacher, or networks of teachers and other stakeholders, available to vet and direct these processes – like in the above diagram.

And while we’ve yet to see too much movement in this direction, projects such as the Department of Education’s School 2.0 Initiative are steps in the right direction, and highlight the role of top-level leadership in making things happen.

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