A shift in the world has obviously taken place over the last hundred years and it has accelerated into a boom in the last ten to fifteen years. As I am sure things changed slowly in the shift from educational ideals prior to the industrial revolution to industrial age norms, education establishments are slowly treading into the information age. The change has come so quickly that teachers with fifteen or more years of experience are more than slightly overwhelmed. Those that did not embrace technology at the offset are now struggling with simple tasks as we strive to take the next step. Administrations cannot continue to devote time for instructing staff on how to access email and use spreadsheets when the new expectation is to Skype and use backchannels.
In the Industrial Age there was a strong need for students to conform. When the bulk of the employment opportunities were for factory workers, schools needed to churn out students who could perform mundane tasks for long periods of time. A hundred years ago a sincere issue among political leaders was how to find enough factory workers. For that reason, government leaders and heads of industry viewed school as a way to produce the human resources that they needed to continue to be productive. They couldn’t afford to allow schools to produce thinkers because thinkers weren’t very good workers. Those schools generally produced students who were good at going to school. A top student would be one who used good manners, never received punishment for the teacher, and always did their homework. Children who were good at going to school would also be good at going to work.
In the Information Age we practically need the antithesis of Industrial Age schooling. We need to begin churning out students who can solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet and students who can lead. The jobs of the future will require students to have creative minds. These adults will be required to collaborate with others and question whatever is placed before them. Employers will be looking for workers who can use their networks to find the answer to whatever conundrum they come upon. Networked people will be more powerful than the greatest scholar because they will have the brain power of hundreds or thousands of minds. Today we can’t afford to produce students who are just good at school. We need to produce students who can survive without a detailed syllabus. Being like everyone else will no longer be a sought after attribute.