Saturday, February 4, 2012

Best way to start a blog on online learning? With History of course.

And what better way to cover the history of the 21st Century than with Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century. For those that haven't read the book yet, a 2005 New York Times article by Friedman entitled "It's a Flat World After All" gives a preview.

Friedman's book, written in 2005, recounted the events and devices that have lead to our globalized world. Friedman discusses the ten events that lead to the flat world. And while I cannot recommend the entire book highly enough, the book has a variety of obvious (2x4 to the head moments) implications to education, the book is a paradigm shifter. When Friedman discusses the "new world" of Globalization 3.0.  Individuals from around the world now have access to our markets, our jobs, and our dream. With the internet, there is no longer a guarantee that American's will be the leader in the world.

 In one chapter, Friedman address the question, how do we prepare our kids for the increased competition? He suggests as the competition intensifies, we must make ourselves “untouchables.” He identifies 4 categories of untouchables:
  1. special workers (the truly creative, innovative, and talented)
  2. specialized workers (the engineer, programmer)
  3. anchored workers (the plumber, barber)
  4. really adaptable workers (the 21st Century Educated)
The simple key to being an untouchable is education. Friedman relates the state and importance on education in his article:
These are some of the reasons that Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman, warned the governors' conference in a Feb. 26 speech that American high-school education is ''obsolete.'' As Gates put it: ''When I compare our high schools to what I see when I'm traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow. In math and science, our fourth graders are among the top students in the world. By eighth grade, they're in the middle of the pack. By 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring near the bottom of all industrialized nations. . . . The percentage of a population with a college degree is important, but so are sheer numbers. In 2001, India graduated almost a million more students from college than the United States did. China graduates twice as many students with bachelor's degrees as the U.S., and they have six times as many graduates majoring in engineering. In the international competition to have the biggest and best supply of knowledge workers, America is falling behind.''
This flatter world in which competition comes from all around the world means that as American's we had better get moving.   I read the book and with each page I was challenged in my goal to teach. It is important to us all.

Friedman related an African Proverb that is now among my favorite "quotes" of all time:
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.” 
That quote, and the book, motivated me. Whether we are the lion or gazelle, we better start running. My challenge is to look at how I could best improve the educational outlook for my grandchildren.

Online learning is my answer. To use the tools of globalization to expand access and change methods of education seems appropriate. Online education and tools have allowed me to better individualize instruction. Online education and tools have allowed me to encourage thinking skills. Online education and tools have offered me hope.

This blog is one of the ways I hope to help our world.

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