Multiple Viewpoints: Obsoledge

Not long ago, I wrote a bit spotlighting the thinking of Alvin Toeffler who argued in an Edutopia article titled "Future School" that schools swamp students in discrete bits of information that quickly become obsolete in a digital world where new knowledge is generated at an amazing pace. Schools, Toeffler argues, overemphasize these discrete bits of knowledge to the detriment of students. He writes:

"We have this enormous bank of obsolete knowledge in our heads, in our books, and in our culture. When change was slower, obsoledge didn’t pile up as quickly. Now, because everything is in rapid change, the amount of obsolete knowledge that we have — and that we teach — is greater and greater and greater. We’re drowning in obsolete information. We make big decisions — personal decisions —- based on it, and public and political decisions based on it."

I was really challenged by Toeffler and sent the article out to a few friends who’ve been sounding boards about educational issues for a long time. We decided to blend our interest in blogging and podcasting with our interest in school reform by recording our reaction to Toeffler’s piece independently and posting them here without talking to one another at all! We figured that it would be cool to see the intersections and divergences between our positions and wondered if our role in the system would influence our responses.      

To focus our recordings, I set this central question:

Given the skill set of teachers in the majority of America’s classrooms, are the kinds of constructivist strategies that Toeffler argues for really possible (plausible) at the school, district or state level?  If not, how do we get to the point where teaching and learning focuses more on real world experiences and less on discrete bits of knowledge that will soon be obsolete?

Adam Garry was the first to respond. Adam is responsible for oversight of Pearson Achievement Solutions’ technology integration and national professional development. A former elementary school teacher, Adam has presented at conferences across the country, including Alan November’s conferences and has written articles on technology integration for several education publications.

He also developed a four-day WebQuest training (online and face-to-face) for K-12 teachers, blended professional development for the Dell Exchange, and a curriculum alignment action priority. Adam received a BA in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Teaching and Learning with a Technology emphasis and is currently working on a certificate in Administration and Supervision from Johns Hopkins.

Here are Adam’s thoughts on Obsoledge:

Download obsoledge_adam.mp3

(Impatient User Warning:  it’s quicker to right click this link and save it to your desktop than it is to stream this recording over the Internet) 

My response came next. As most of you know, I’ve been a practicing classroom teacher for the past 14 years. During that time, I’ve earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards as a Middle Childhood Generalist—and renewed my certification for the first (of what will likely be two) times. Some days I’m highly qualified and others I’m just agitated.      

I’ve also served as the Teacher in Residence at The Center for Teaching Quality, a Senior Fellow in the Teacher Leaders Network, and a Policy Consultant for TeacherSolutions and been recognized as a District and Regional Teacher of the Year in my state.  I’ve written for several different education journals including Threshold, Teacher Magazine, and The Journal for Staff Development. What I’m probably best known for, however, is my determination to remain a classroom teacher—and for drinking a dozen Diet Cokes a day.

Here were my thoughts on Obsoledge:

Download obsoledge_bill.mp3

(Impatient User Warning:  it’s quicker to right click this link and save it to your desktop than it is to stream this recording over the Internet) 

Over the next week or so, I’m expecting to get another recording or two. I’ll post them as they trickle in. If you’re interested in sharing your thoughts, jump right in! Either send an short MP3 recording—along with some biographical information about your interest/role in education—to wmferriter [at] gmail [dot] com or leave a comment below.

Might be kind of fun to see what "Multiple Viewpoints" can become!