You're encouraged to join and participate in what I hope will be an on-going conversation. Your participation will make this effort a much more worthwhile endeavor. Be sure to click on the "Comments" tab below to read what others have written in response. I look forward to hearing more from you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Vision: The College of 2020

The Chronicle of Higher Education Research Services recently released a report that provides a vision of what colleges will look like in the year 2020.  The report is based upon reviews of research and data on trends in higher education, interviews with experts who are sculpting the future paradigm of colleges, and the results of a panel of college admissions personnel that was selected by the Chronicle Research Services.  The defining questions asked were 1) What is college? and 2) Why should I go? The answers reflect a significant shift in the way students envision higher education and how they will wish to pursue a degree.

The following points appeared in the Executive Summary:
  • The traditional model of college is changing, as demonstrated by the proliferation of colleges (particularly for-profit colleges), hybrid class schedules with night and weekend meetings, and, most significantly, online learning.
  • Students' convenience is the future (more students will attend classes online, study part-time, take courses from multiple universities, seek three-year degree programs, and low-cost options).
  • These changes, and the pressure they will put on colleges to adapt, are coming at a particularly acute time (the hour glass-shaped economy of the future will require a college degree as a means of entry and/or advancement in higher-paying, career-oriented professions).
  • Colleges that have resisted putting some of their courses online will almost certainly have to expand their online programs quickly.
  • The conversion to more convenience for students will multiply over the next decade.
  • Colleges will need to offer these options in addition to the face-to-face instruction.
  • Students now going to elementary school are going to expect more connectivity and creativity from colleges.
  • Today's high school students see their educational futures built almost entirely around technology.
Below are three quotes extracted from the report:

"The students of 2020 will demand an education on their terms and will be seeking a technology-based customized approach.  The bottom line is that they will want it all: a plethora of learning options that they can mix and match to play to their strengths."

"The Internet has made most information available to everyone, and faculty members must take that into consideration when teaching. There is very little that students cannot find on their own if they are inspired to do so. And many of them will be surfing the Net in class. The faculty member, therefore, may become less an oracle and more an organizer and guide, someone who adds perspective and context, finds the best articles and research, and sweeps away misconceptions and bad information."

"Good teaching will always be at the core of a good university, but for most colleges, higher education will become a more retail-based industry than it ever has been.  The students of the future will demand it.  Many colleges have a long way to go before they can fulfill that demand."

This, according to the report, is what the 21st century college will look like.  Students (and their parents) will be seeking more affordable options, recognizing the value of higher education while opting for the best value as a return on their investment.  If this is so, and high schools are charged with preparing students for success in higher education, then will high schools have to change as well in order to adapt to this paradigm shift at the college level?  And is this what it means when reference is made to developing 21st century skills?  Will standards be compromised if they are adapted to meet the needs/demands of students?  Or will any change in standards simply reflect more compatibility with life in the 21st century?  Is there a more cost effective way of conducting the business of education - of providing an enriching learning experience?  And if these changes are made, will they reduce the role that teachers presently play in the process (oracle) or, instead, change the role to fit a new model (guide an organizer)?  What do you think?

An article appearing in the New York Time (11/21/10) entitled "Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distractions" may provide a perspective on the challenges that these new forms of technology pose.  A link to the article is below.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hot Button Topic - 21st Century Skills

What's getting much of the attention these days is the focus upon 21st century skill sets that students must arguably acquire in order to have a reasonable chance of being productive citizens in the new global economy.  It's, no doubt, a hot-button topic.  A simple "Google Search" of the words - 21st century skills - returned 8,500,000 hits in 0.15 seconds.  Okay.  So what's causing the heat?

Well, it's about lots of things, and it all doesn't match up in coordinated fashion.  The one constant in the conversation about 21st century skills, though, is the relative importance of the web and its place in formal (academic) learning.  More and more types of people of all sorts of ages are spending more and more time connecting to the web. On-line courses, on-line banking, on-line shopping, social networking, and open source content -they're everywhere, and can be easily accessed from anywhere, too .  Clearly, the temperature is rising on this hot-button issue as it relates to its place in teaching and learning.

Will Richardson, a 20-year veteran of classroom teaching and author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010), made this observation in his Preface - "...we live in a world where the following condition still exists: a growing majority of students are immersed in social networks and technologies outside of school, and most have no adults in their lives who are teaching them how to use those connections to learn.  Our collective inability to recognize a 'tectonic shift' in the way we learn stems, I believe, from one fundamental fact - not enough of us have experienced that shift ourselves.  These shifts will not come under the guise of 'twenty-first century skills' reforms which are actually nineteenth-century skills being remarketed for a new day.  They will only come when enough educators fully understand the open connections, open conversations, open content, and open learning that come as a part of a community of learners who are invested in their own passions."

For some of you, the aforementioned may be a radical view.  For others, it may be right on.  Is it time for a major paradigm shift in education?  Or does it simply mean some minor tinkering with the present model?  Maybe you feel that nothing at all needs to be done. It "ain't broke, so don't fix it."  Maybe technology is driving way beyond the speed limit and educators need to apply the brakes. 

Whatever you may be feeling about this, it's likely you're feeling something.  Will the rising heat bring about a climate change in public schools?  I encourage you to watch the video below (far left, literally, although it may be considered far left in other ways as well) that addresses this issue.  The presentation is very visual.  Take a few minutes - about 11, to be more precise -to view it.  And then take a few more minutes to share your thoughts.  Put them out there and give others a chance to read them. You may encourage others to respond.  And this could perhaps be a place where a community of learners is formed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why do a blog?

I've been in this profession of education for so long that I can be considered a veteran of mimeograph copying machines.  Back when I first started, I would wait my turn in the "workroom" where this machine was located and then affix my carbon to the roller and start cranking out copies.  Today, and a few decades later, I can now crank out material in so many other ways.  A weblog is just one of these ways.

Our Guidance Department at EOSHS has been gradually making a shift to electronic communication, trying to straddle that line of demarcation that separates "high tech" from "high touch".  There is certainly enough debate out there about the relative merits of online communication - it's too impersonal, too anonymous vs. it's very personal and wholly accountable.  Like it or not, our students are living and breathing in this electronic world.  Adults, knowingly or otherwise, are, too.  So, we (educators) need to reach out in ways that connect us to students -  and parents -  and where they can be found.  And we need to make more information available to everyone in our school community that can be accessed whenever and wherever one may be.  This weblog is one more effort among many that we're trying in Guidance in order to achieve the aforementioned.  It is not, I wish to emphasize, a replacement for the one-to-one, face-to-face meetings that remain an integral part of what we do.  Instead, this is a complement to the personal approach and, perhaps, even an enhancement of it.

But why a weblog, you might ask?  Well, here's why.  Weblogs offer the opportunity for on-going conversations.  Unlike an eboard or a pdf file, a weblog provides a chance for readers to respond, for dialog, and for others to participate in the conversation.  It can become an open forum on matters that invite discussion.  It can also quite simply be another way to convey information.

This is an experiment.  Initially, we'll introduce one topic per week and assess from there. I invite you to join.  Comments will be posted by those who wish to register (anyone can do this by following the link on this page).  Respect, with malice towards none, will be the guiding rule for posts.  In addition, links that I consider useful and interesting will be added at the bottom of the page.  I encourage suggestions to make this experiment work.

Let me know your questions.  It's time to start cranking.