Friday, January 7, 2011

Facing the 21st Century

The following is the list of websites from which the facts in my newsletter column this week were taken.

Here is a copy of the article, for those who haven't yet read it:

Last August our faculty jumped into a conversation that has been percolating in educational circles across the globe for several years now.   The topic is often referred to as 21st Century Learning and its basic premise is that the world around us is so dramatically different than the world we adults grew up in that it behooves us to revisit and revise our curricula in all subject areas so as to ensure that our students are being best prepared for their world of the future, and not for our world of the past.

But is it really true? Are the times we are living in really so different than those that preceded us? Wasn’t society when we went to school dramatically different than it had been for our parents?  Wasn’t the same true for our parents when they went to school?  And even if times now are different, are the changes so dramatic that they justify tampering with an educational system that has served us so well for so long?

If you’re unsure of the answers, consider the following:

  • Today there are 200,000 text messages, 34,000 Google searches, 700 Facebook status updates, and 600 tweets produced every second (yes, every second). Yet, the first text message was only sent in 1992.  The first Google search was done in 1998.  The first Facebook profile was updated in 2004 and the first tweet was only chirped in 2006.
  • More video was uploaded to YouTube in the last two months than was aired by ABC, NBC, and CBS combined since the day they began broadcasting over 60 years ago.
  •  After only six years of existence, Facebook has over 500 million users.  If it were a country it would be the third largest in the world, behind China and India and well ahead of the United States.
  •    It took radio 38 years to reach a market audience of 50 million listeners.  It took television 13 years to reach 50 million viewers.  The internet reached 50 million people in 4 years, Ipods reached 50 million in 3 years, and Facebook hit 50 million in only 2 years.
  • The computer in your cell phone today is a million times cheaper, a thousand times more powerful and about a hundred thousand times smaller than the one computer at MIT in 1965.
  •   According to the former US Secretary of Education, the top ten in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004 and according to the US Department of Labor, today’s students will hold 10-14 different jobs by the time they are 38 years old.
  • At today’s rate of change, technology will experience 20,000 years of growth over the coming century.
  •   Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were approximately five exabytes of unique information created. We now create five exabytes every two days (an exabyte, if you’re wondering, is equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes or 1 billion gigabytes). That means every two days we create approximately 250,000 times the amount of information stored in the Library of Congress.  The information in the Library of Congress took 200 years to collect.

What we are seeing today is unlike anything we have ever seen before.  We were raised in an age of linear growth, as were our parents before us.  Our kids, however, are being raised in exponential times.  In educational circles, the implications of this new reality has been summed up as follows:  The job of an educator today is to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist in which they will use technologies that have yet to be invented for the purpose of solving problems we have yet to identify.

That’s quite a tall task.  To give our children the best chances for success in this brave new world of exponentially accelerated change, however, we are going to have to find a way to accomplish it.  At our faculty in-service next week we’ll begin to map out the steps we’ll need to take to get us there.

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