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Education In the Flat World by David A. Janosz, Jr. - December 2005

One of the basic concepts that Thomas Friedman describes in his bestseller, “The World Is Flat” is this: because information is now available to the entire globe, the next level of innovations, inventions, and creative ideas can now come from anywhere.  No longer is it true that only a select few companies or countries will be able to prosper and profit.  It was once more desirable to be born an average Joe or Jane in Anytown, USA than to be born a genius in China.  But, in a flat world it is possible to “innovate without having to emigrate” and that is no longer true.

So, what implications may a flat world have for our education system?  Friedman certainly doesn’t miss the mark when it comes to education as he points out the American system is not stimulating enough people to go into science, math, and engineering.  He indicates through interviews with various individuals that American students lack creativity, problem-solving skills, and a passion for learning that are inherent in students from other countries.  One of his interviewees describes what he calls “The American Idol Problem,” the fact that Americans can be so delusional that they think they are the greatest, while everyone else can see how horribly untalented they are.  This attitude, he contends, is transferring into the global marketplace.

Richard A. Rashid, Microsoft’s director of research, insists, “We have done a very poor job of conveying to kids the value of science and technology as a career choice that will make the world a better place.  Engineering and science is what led to so many improvements in our lives.”  Friedman continues by pointing out that, “India and China have a long tradition of parents telling their children that the greatest thing they can be in life is an engineer or doctor.”  He also points out that it takes a long time to produce a scientist or engineer and we should be encouraging such earlier in a child’s schooling.  Soon the days will be gone, if they aren’t already, when the U.S. can rely on importing engineers, designers, and technologists from other countries, and we had better get on the ball.

Friedman also points out that in December, 2004, the Program for International Student Assessment showed American fifteen year olds are below the international average when it comes to applying math to real-life tasks!   He states, “Give young people a context where they can translate a positive imagination into reality…give them a context in which they pursue an entrepreneurial idea…”

Friedman suggests, “[Students will] have to constantly upgrade [their] skills, there will be plenty of jobs in the flat world for people with the knowledge and the ideas to seize them.  One of the “muscles,” as he describes, that can enhance lifetime employability is opportunities for lifelong learning.

This sounds a lot like the learning that is going on in our technology classrooms every day.

In sum, the good news is that nearly everything about the technology education philosophy is consistent with what the flat world will require our students in their future!  The not so good news is that still only a relative few know that!

Keep up the good work, and keep spreading the word that what and how we teach is just right for the flat world!