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It's a flat world after all, it's a flat world after all....
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Today I talked with one of the brightest people I know, one of the most visionary, and a true intellectual pioneer; the three all double as authors. I'll let them figure out which category they fall into. Two things popped up as important items in each conversation.

1. Flatness. Reach back in your memory for the insipid Disney tune, "It's a small world after all." Hum a few bars. Seven years ago, an accordian player in the Paris Métro planted this song in my head. It haunted me for days. Here it is. Got it?

Substitute "flat" for "small." It's a flat world after all. Tom Friedman's best seller has it nailed. It's time for America to wake up and smell the coffee. It's a flat world after all. The playing field is level and it's broad as the earth. ¡Mi XML, su XML! The transfer cost of knowledge is nil, and the net has no respect for geography. You're going to hear this a lot. It's a flat world after all.

2. School daze.
Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone. I was reading weiterbildungsblog.de because they'd translated my definition of workflow into German when I came upon Bill Gates's NGA speech on high school education posted on Mark Oelhert's blog. This had come up in every conversation, too. I first saw it in email from Elliott, then it began popping up elsewhere. Words of wisdom from Chairman Bill (and if you're a Microsoft-hater, suspend your knee-jerk response, because this is right on):
"America’s high schools are obsolete.

By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded – though a case could be made for every one of those points.

By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.

Training the workforce of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. It’s the wrong tool for the times.

Our high schools were designed fifty years ago to meet the needs of another age. Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting – even ruining – the lives of millions of Americans every year.
I recommend reading Bill's speech in its entirety. The Pini Floyd music makes a nice background.

If people are up for it, Emergent Learning Forum may hold a F2F meeting in Berkeley to face the music and talk over what we plan to do about it. These are world-changers, my friends. We cannot afford to sit back contently and let this wash over us.


Blogger TERRY said...

I am reminded more and more of Edwin Abbott's math fantasy/satire "Flatland". Weblogs and folksonomic technologies are the incomprehensible world of 3-D while hierarchical, taxonomic technologies (learning management systems like Blackboard and WebCT spring to mind)are the 2-D flatlanders. I would turn Friedman's metaphor of flattening on its head and demand that we view the world as becoming more multidimensional all the time. We are moving toward a metaphor we don't understand, not toward one that we do. That's the bite of it. Friedman, as usual, is out of the loop. Moses couldn't delineate the promised land, but, unlike Friedman, at least he sensed it. As Abbott said in his seminal book, "Flatlanders tell the truth about flatland." In the parlance of his book, we (you, me, and tech attuned) are squares who have been touched by a sphere. We live in a world we know ain't "right", but knowing that doesn't mean we know what is true. It is the mystery Faulkner spoke of when he said we should never mistake the facts for the truth.

4:30 PM  

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