Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is History Predicting Us or Are We Predicting The Future?

As an eager twenty-something with some technical skills and a degree in Secondary Education-English/Communications I was naive enough to march into New York for a job interview. It was with a start-up network consultancy in midtown Manhattan that serviced mostly financial institutions throughout the US.

The subway series was underway and so was the dot-com boom. Harry, the HR recruiter, projected that our company's stock would open at $45 during the IPO on the NASDAQ within a year. I left that morning with a job, good salary, inflated ego, and 4000 shares of stock as a signing bonus. Life was good. All I had to do so far was manage to get cross town in rush hour traffic.

I soon would hear stories of grandeur of how life would be in the future. In the present, I saw excess and lots of it. In the words of Alan Greenspan, I saw the "irrational exuberance". We know the rest of the story.

Maybe the phrase "once bitten, twice shy" is to blame but seeing Epic 2015 pointed out in Gary Stager's post reminds me somewhat of this "irrational exuberance". No doubt our world is seeing a cultural transformation never seen before that is shaking up how we do business, communicate, understand/learn, and collaborate thanks to technology. And no doubt our students are learning differently as members of this world. It's all very exciting!! But 7 year predictions to me seem like a crap shoot at best and somewhat misleading.

In the opening of school this year, I have two choices in the context of Epic2015:

  1. I could show this video in my opening year conference. I could also talk to my teachers about the future of technology in hopes to teach students.
  2. Or as Gary points out, I could talk about the things we can do now to help our students learn better to have a brighter future. A focus on teaching and learning behind the tools seems like a great place to start.
The question of balance seems to be in whose future do we want to talk about? Is it the future of our students or the future of technology and tools? And if it's our students, doesn't the future start now with teaching, learning, and technology? Should that be our starting point?

I know there are folks that are very adept at making projections and we need those people. From my tiny vantage point, though, it seems like we need to keep more focused on latter choice above. If our beliefs and values of teaching and learning haven't quite caught up with 2008 we are just going to be applying a tired paradigm to a concept that we're projecting in 2015. Already out of the gate, our perspective is murky. Trying to figure out our students, learning, and teaching in the 2008-2009 school year first seems like a good starting point for me.

Before I get into trouble, I'm not implying that we don't need to forecast and look at trends inside and outside of education. Nor I am trying to say that folks shouldn't do it or aren't capable. We need to plan by looking ahead without a doubt. But these types of videos-Orwell-like or Bradbury-like-make for fun "what-if" games but shouldn't be used at the expense of focusing on figuring out our current world of education. Trying to conceptualize these specifics into the future when we're still trying to figure out the present seems like the "irrational exuberance" we saw during thos
e halcyon days of the dot-com boom.

My bonus shares and 4000 more that I was "awarded" throughout my tenure, by the way, never did open at $45 a share....they never materialized.

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