Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Sixth Sense + Semantic Web = TOTAL change

On Friday I shared some sites and ideas with some Superintendents and Principals in one part of the state. BOY, do I now wish that I had been caught up with my feeds! That would have really changed the way that I ended the session.

After the session one one Principal said that he has been pushing for his teachers to use this kind of technology (to DO things like collaborate, etc) for a couple of years but he's meeting with great resistance. One teacher (about 40 yrs old) told him that he felt that computers were ruining education and that they needed to get back top books and pencils. Keep that quote in mind as you read on.

Until I saw this video on TED of Pattie Maes I was thinking that the next really big change in technology would be in the form of the Semantic Web. That's the web that researchers like Tim-Berners Lee, the inventor of the current World Wide Web, are now working on. (See Tim Berners-Lee on Ted talking about his next idea here) Imagine having the web understanding context of words and ideas, not just matching words as it does now with search engines. Want to know more? Watch this video. (Or this one. It's very good.)

That's what I THOUGHT would be the biggest revolution. But I was wrong. (I think. :-) ) I think the next thing to RADICALLY change things is the invention that Pattie Maes demonstrated. Imagine wearing a device that interacted with the environment. What will we/education do then? When kids are walking around (at home, not at school because it will be banned, of course) with a device that can tell them whatever they want to know about the object they're looking at, what will be the purpose of school? The part of the demo that blew me away was when he was in the grocery store and got data on a product displayed right on the product. And linking to Amazon to see what readers have rated a given book - displayed right on the book!

This technology works right now. And she said that it costs less than $350 to build the one she demonstrated. That means that it's very possible (likely?) that we'll begin to see it in the stores within ten years. What if it takes twenty years? That's still within the career lifetimes of many of you. In your career you're going to go from Google on a laptop to the world around your neck. You've already got the world in your cell phone (also banned in most schools).

It's impossible to begin to train yourself on how to use a technology that doesn't yet exist, but it IS possible to begin to rethink old ideas about the role of our schools. Think about the person who argued that computers are ruining education and that we should go back to book and pencils. That guy will still be teaching in 15 years. At SOME point along the way, if that attitude doesn't change, it would HAVE to be considered malpractice to be so backward. Would you want YOUR kids to be in his class? Sure, he may be very nice, and he may be real good at getting his students to remember what he's saying - at least long enough for the test. But, at some point that just HAS to be irrelevant, doesn't it? The test-taking skills that he would be teaching would have no further relevance. At SOME point we MUST acknowledge that the role of schools should change.

Am I wrong?


Kim Breuninger said...

I don't think you are wrong Jim and this may be just what is needed to wake education up. But, I also don't think all of education is at fault. There are simply too many regulations and mandates that change too frequently. What are the teachers to do with so little time and so many regulations. It is important that the people we trust to make the regulations be on the right page. Keep up the great work.

Jim Gates said...

I agree with you about the regulations, etc. When talking with a Professor in higher ed we talked about all the regulations that are imposed on the student teaching program. It's no wonder they don't have time to teach them the skills that we're looking for in our teachers. They have almost NO say in what gets taught in those courses. Or, so I was told.

Karen Janowski said...

I watched that video earlier today and was blown away by the possibilities as well. That video combined with the one that Chris Lehmann blogged about should be required viewing by everyone who makes education policy decisions.
It's time to realize it's 2009 - we are ten years into the 21st century and too many of our classrooms still look like and teach like it's 1959.