T Sale's Blog

Monday, August 07, 2006

Flat World Thoughts

I had mixed feelings about The World is Flat. On the one hand, I found all the history and explanation of the digital revolution interesting (somehow I wasn’t getting it all first hand when it was happening), and I liked the forward-looking nature of the book because I’ve always been a science fiction fan. At other times I got a little tired of the repetitive nature of Friedman’s examples – here comes yet another story of how someone makes a lot of money, followed by another example of how the Chinese are preparing to conquer the world.

There were a few things that struck me as important to education. The section on Wikipedia, and in particular the experience of John Seigenthaler, Sr., brought to mind one of the big shifts that’s taken place in research and the very nature of fact and fiction. I remember when we spent several days showing students how to access information. Now they can find more information than they’d ever need in a few seconds on the Web. But as the finding of information got easier, we didn’t think about the quality of the information. We still need to make a shift over to teaching kids how to judge what they find on line and differentiate what’s fact and what’s hooey. To me this is an important component of modern education because these days we get our information “through a fire hose” (as Friedman says) and much of that water is polluted. We need to give students the means to filter what they see in the media.

The horizontal interconnectivity of information is also something we as educators could use to better advantage. We see any given student for 56 minutes per day, and some students who struggle could benefit from all their teachers comparing notes from time to time. We might be able to alter some behaviors if the math, English, science and history teachers all focused on the same thing for the student.


  • At Tue Aug 08, 07:50:00 PM 2006, Blogger Karl Fisch said…

    I think the repetition was probably on purpose - it's too easy for people to dismiss one or two examples as exceptions. I think he wanted to "bludgeon" the reader a little bit to make sure they didn't walk away thinking it still wasn't going to affect them (or their children).

    The horizontal interconnectivity of information is very much a goal of our project. We set aside some time specifically for collaboration, but pretty much all that we do in this group helps foster that collaboration anyway. It's a hope of mine that this project will help break down our "departmental walls."

  • At Wed Aug 09, 09:11:00 AM 2006, Blogger Lary Kleeman said…

    Well, I would like to begin with congratulating you on using the word "hooey"--one of my all time favs.

    As for the firehose spewing info, this metaphor brings me to what one of my favorite thinkers, Abraham Heschel, has written. In a nutshell, Heschel states that humankind will not perish for a lack of information but rather, for a lack of appreciation.

    This brings me to what I think is key to our directive as constructivist, 21st century educators--values. No, I'm not speaking of values exclusively in terms of moral values or ethical values, I'm speaking more to the question of, what does the student value? How do we encourage students to begin this process of identifying what they value and why?

    Simply put, how do we begin to approach the adage, know thyself, in our educational process for our students?

    For, if we are to follow Heschel's thinking, it's not a dilemma of technology but a dilemma of the human being that will undo us.

    This, I think, is where inquiry-based education comes in. To ask questions, legitimate, authentic, self-generated questions, is to begin to tread in the wilderness of reflective thinking.

    I hold that one cannot be appreciative unless one is first reflective.

  • At Wed Aug 09, 10:36:00 AM 2006, Blogger Ms. Kakos said…

    Yes, and it's difficult at times to elicit genuine reflection from students. Like real humans, they often tell you want they think you want to hear. To dig my fingers down into the next muddy layer (though I don't think it's possible to get deeper than Lary), I hold that students will balk at reflection and appreciation until they trust us. Otherwise, why would they take such a risk?

    So, the question I face as I enter the classroom next Thursday is the following: What foundations can I plant to help my students trust not only me, but each other? I suppose a true constructivist would have me look to my students for the answer.

  • At Fri Aug 11, 07:46:00 AM 2006, Blogger J. Comp said…

    Larry-you hit it on the head! I think our kids are capable of this true refelction, as I have seen it in the inquiry process. Giving young minds the ability to self direct, to question, to find their own answers, to explore and analyze opens up new possibilites and prespectives. Only when truly dealing with the immediate real-word applicability and function in their own lives, can students appreciate. Students need to see that we are true people who reflect every day, and like Kristin said-they may grow to trust us more when seeing that we are taking a leap in their education and fostering new ideas that they may not be used to. Only when we challenge ourselves can we challenge others. I don't know if it's truly about trust with these kids as it is more about how they perceive their self concept and capabilities. Larry said that the question lies in with what their values are-what do they truly care about? That is why I am starting my units off with the central question: what matters? Terry-I agree also that we need to teach our kids how to evaluate sources. there is so much at their fingertips and many can't decipher between what is true and what's b.s.


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