Imagining what schools might look like in the future

I really enjoyed the following post on Carl Anderson’s blog this week. It’s about a video clip from the 1995 (US) House Committee Hearing on Technology in Education.

In this clip Seymour Papert describes what he thinks schools might look like in the future. He describes mixed age one-room schoolhouse type settings where students work with their teacher(s) to complete constructive projects. One interesting quote from this clip, addressing David Shaw’s criticism of this vision, Papert says:

“I did preface my remarks, I think there is an education establishment with its head wedged in a culture that grew up over a century of which there was the most lethargic progress of education in all fields of human activity.”

The response from Papert to Shaw cracked me up. The exchange epitomizes why we remain in a sort of suspended animation over attempts to transform schools. Papert has been an inspirational promoter of using computers as instruments for learning and for enhancing creativity, and for the transformation of our school system since the 1960s. He is someone I consider a true visionary and future thinker.  On the other hand, we have (in this short clip) the view represented by a learned researcher – undoubtedly proficient in his craft and not lacking in intelligence either, but grounded in the present paradigm, and considering all the reasons why such radical thinking won’t work. So long as our thinking of the future is inhibited by the visions of the present we’re doomed to a sort of ‘mediocrity’ in terms of educational policy and visioning. to be honest, I thought Papert’s response was amazingly polite under the circumstances 🙂

2 thoughts on “Imagining what schools might look like in the future

  1. This is exactly what we were discussing around the table at Latsconf in Rotorua back in February. We can have that long term, game changing vision, but if the powers that be insist on constructing it on the existing paradigm then it’s like building the temple on sand – it’ll fall down. The current systems are flawed, they are still effective for many, but don’t allow for creative flexibility by teacher and/or student or for true individualised learning.

    Who do we need to talk to to change this? Who can say, “Yes, that’s a vision we need to meet, but we’ll have to cut off the 19/20th century model right now.” No gradual shift from now to then, no slow crawl from here to there, no passing of the baton, but a leap, a long jump – into the future vision of learning that tantalisingly, for many, already exists.

    Sure, we’ll get it wrong, we’ll make mistakes, but if we’re who we think we are that won’t matter. We’ll learn from our errors and create a system and students that can cope with an continually evolving learning landscape. The view has changed and education hasn’t changed to match it. It’s time to catch up.

  2. Sadly. I don’t see Anne Tolley being in a position to deliver on a future vision for education in NZ – she has the PPTA and NZEI negotiations this year, and I reckon that’ll take up her time until the next election. Ahh politicians – bless their cotton socks

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