Sunday, April 20, 2008

Industrial Revolution 2.0

More and more I find that the world, along with myself, seems to be coming to grips with the notion that we find ourselves in the midst of what should only be deemed an Industrial Revolution. William McDonough has already spoken of an industrial revolution in terms of the terrible need to change our perspectives about ecological responsibility. Cradle to cradle is his brainchild for radically changing the ways that we think about production and recycling. Within it, he poses a challenge to generate products and structures that are truly recyclable, that have no end life. “The Next Industrial Revolution.”

My vision of our current Industrial Revolution is slightly different, and as I thought back to my grade school understanding of the history of the Industrial Revolution I found the comparison to be extremely interesting. Around the mid 1800’s people in Great Britain and America began migrating away from their farms into the cities where their labor was found to be in great need. There had been a fairly rapid increase in innovation in regards to the technology of manufacture. Factories churned out goods at what seemed to be an alarming rate. The general public, who, for the first time, were accumulating wealth, became consumers and their appetite was discovered to be great. It was, in many ways, a time of huge prosperity and essentially the powerful wind that has brought us forward to the present.

One of the major differences between the first and second Industrial Revolution and the Industrial Revolution in which we currently find ourselves will be the fact that we will be able to study and relate to our own revolution as it happens. The speed with which media is currently produced and consumed will allow us to view multiple different takes on the state of our lives almost immediately. We will analyze and evaluate our direction in much the same way that our cars are being guided remotely via satellite. Previously, people were aware that there were great changes going on right around them, but these individuals did not have an efficient method for contemplating the whirlwind of change that they found themselves drawn up in.

Here we are in the midst of a great whirlwind, and what is amazing, is that we will have the pause to still, at least our own minds, within the turmoil to assess our direction and affect, hopefully, change.

What is frightening is how this will connect with the classrooms of the 21st century. Obviously, technology, similar to mechanization, is going to be the greatest factor in revolutionizing our world as we know it. This past weekend I attended, along with two of my administrators, our counties job fair. The elementary schools of our county hosted around a thousand applicants, in most cases, looking to begin their careers as teachers. I was able to ask one question of our perspective candidates and I elected to center my question around how they might plan to implement technology in the classroom. In general, they struggled with their responses.

Here we are preparing our students for careers that have yet to be conceived of. Preparing the children for a world that is rapidly shrinking. Moving forward into an incredibly exciting time of tremendous innovation and yet it seems that we may be missing the boat.

The average student in their teens has at least three digital devices on their person at any given time. Whether it be a cell phone, an MP3, a laptop, a video game, a GPS, or a simple television. They are interacting on a global scale with multiple individuals socially, economically, and as someone who pursues their own personally developed education plan, and yet in the classroom they are stuck in what might reasonably be called a medieval time.

Many students have a more thorough knowledge of technology than their teachers. For a lot of teachers this is terribly intimidating, let alone the notion of the multiple rapid improvements in technology that are taking place on a daily basis. WE MUST PERSEVERE! We must not be intimidated, and furthermore, those of us who are able to interact within this world of change, must step out of our comfort zones with the intentions of guiding our colleagues into the next Industrial Revolution. We must do this for the sake of our children. We must do this for the sake of our country. We must embrace the future that is here now, and seek to guide our children into this great foggy expanse.

I believe that many will find this, in some sense frightening, for one of the most difficult aspects of being a teacher is allowing oneself to believe that it is ok not to know all the answers. Here we stand in the great whirlwind of change. Don’t miss your opportunity to turn on the switches that will keep our next generation on the precipice of innovation.

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