I was at one of the better holiday home parties one could go to last night: clever people, great food and home-made music. Peter Rawsthorne (follow him on Twitter at @prawsthorne), Ted Spear, a friend and colleague who really needs to get onto the web because we can all benefit from his sharp thinking, and I set to talking about Schools 2.0–Ted’s phrase–in between sets of sparkling bluegrass tunes.
The pat answer, I said, to “Why bring technology (that ill-defined word) into the classroom?” is that we need to prepare kids to work in the 21st century. That’s true, as far as it goes–which isn’t very far as it turns out. Sure, there is a new sort of technology literacy of the kind Alan November speaks about that kids do need to learn; but that is not the stuff to make us dizzy. Yet, I distinctly remember hearing this sort of breathless enthusiasm before. Indeed, when hasn’t education said, in its boldest voice, it’s preparing kids for tomorrow?
There is an obvious contradiction here. If it was the case that an education prepared kids for tomorrow, we wouldn’t be saying anything at all about so-called Learning 2.0 because, well, we all would have been prepared for it yesterday. That we currently feel unready must mean either that education took aim at the right target, but missed the mark–again and again; or that education has not been aiming at the right thing at all.
The folly of educating for tomorrow is that tomorrow never comes; the adage is tired, but only because we need to say it so often. As Sir Ken Robinson says in the video below (at about 2:05), “education is meant to take us into a future we can’t grasp.”
If Robinson is right, and I think he is, what constitutes a good education? We need to find those things that are timeless: creativity as Robinson says; imagination as Northrop Frye says; critical discourse and narrative, I say. None of these faculties are dependent on technologies of any kind, though all may take advantage of them.