Innovation in education
Summer SqueakFest is in Chicago again this year. The key note, Dr. Seymour Papert, presented to a close group his thoughts on education as it stands today and what must be done to really change. He said some very thought provoking statements and stories.
Seymour told one story that got a good laugh (and yet was very thought provoking). The story was from an event several years ago when Alan Kay and Seymour Papert were both key note speakers at a conference on computers and education. Seymour, during his keynote, stated that he hoped that this would be "the last conference on computers and education" because he felt that the focus on the computer was driving behavior in education the wrong way. The comment that hit home (and got the laugh) was "There are no conferences on paper and education.".
Seymour's talked at length about education in the USA and the approach being taken to "fix" the "system". He believed that fixing it is not the approach; through a parable he expressed his thought: The people of a fictional country only ate suet. While suet is edible it is not the best for long term health (lots of fat). So the doctors in this country focused on making things to add to the suet to make it a better food so that the lives and health of the people improved.
A change occurred in the country where connections with the outside world improved and new and better foods could be brought in; greens, fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. The leaders of the country asked the suet doctors to design a diet with the new foods coming in from the outside that would be good for the people. However, the suet doctors did not know anything about the new foods, they only knew suet. So they continued to focus on improving the suet food additives. Seymour equated the education professionals of the USA to the suet doctors; when a new and improved opportunity for a new way to educate children presented itself, the educators continued to focus on improving the current model and system, instead of taking the opportunity to latch on to other methods of education.
Seymour said "It is easy to think something is impossible ... what pushes us to do the impossible? A crisis, panic or pressure." He eluded that the education system in the USA is headed for a crisis but not there yet so the "suet doctors will continue."
Seymore, along with Alan kay and Nicholas Negroponte are putting their efforts into creating the $100 laptop that will be distributed to the developing world. In the discussion of this topic, Seymore stated "developing countries want to change ... The USA considers it self a developed country and 'is already there' and does not need change."
There are many stories in the innovation space where companies are blind sided by new companies that produce a better product in less time, creating more value. Will the USA become blind sided by those "developing" countries in several years when the developing countries produce citizens that think better, faster, and add more value?