Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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Schools vs. The Web

[My mother sent this to me in an email and I thought I might post it and open up the question to everyone. So read it, think about and leave some comments.]

By Barbara Rubin Brier

Trying to follow your thinking on web-related developments, I was pleased to see Richard MacManus ask some good/hard questions about down-to-earth explanations and projections of the future vis-à-vis interfaces. Out of curiosity, I clicked over to his site and found a number of references to web 2.0 and education and to differences in first year and fourth year student use and perception of the web. I was particularly curious about Gardner Campbell’s quote concerning younger students living “…on, and in, the Web”, and spent a moment or two on his site before I realized that I just didn’t have time to follow that tangent right now… I have a report to write … about the increasing challenges and complexities of being a school principal.

There is a connection here, so hang on. The reason I was visiting NoahBrier.com earlier this AM is that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by my report; the challenges of the principalship have become pretty overwhelming, especially considering that principals are being held accountable for improved test scores in an environment where they have no means of rewarding teachers for employing effective new instructional strategies, nor any way to impose consequences on those who refuse to step up altogether. Given the prevalent structure and organization of schools, the principal’s challenge seems pretty intractable – which is pretty discouraging.

When I’m feeling like that, my mind wanders, and I seek distraction – ergo, my visit to your site. But what I read on Richard MacManus’ Read/Write Web and briefly, on Gardner Campbell’s blog, made me feel even more uncertain about when and how we can transition to this new world you’re seeing. In a nutshell, it’s hard to imagine RSS being an educator’s best friend when librarians are still discounting web resources, and teachers continue to put a quota on the number of web references allowed on research papers (in spite of the fact that a blog exchange can probably be considered a primary source) … you get my drift.

I’ve recently been expounding the belief that 25 to 30 years from now, the people in our classrooms will not be teachers of content knowledge, but facilitators of learning that will be entirely web-based. We will still need schools and classrooms, as parents will still need to work, so children will still need to be attended to during work hours. But I don’t think teaching, as it is currently practiced, can really continue. I still see ‘professional’ adults in the classroom, but I think they’ll be more focused on 1)helping students learn to analyze, synthesize and connect content they access online, and 2) helping students to listen to one another, cooperate, collaborate, etc. (“Listen, Learn and Cooperate” as Carroll Lewis [ED: She ways my kindergarten teacher] always said!)

Anyway, I would love to hear what others have to say about this. I’d really like to look down the road, with others, and envision how these adjustments might occur. What do you think?

Barbara Rubin Brier is an educational change consultant who’s incredibly passionate about the state of schooling.

August 10, 2005