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How is education changing?

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Education is confronting a wide range of changes which are far broad and complex. So in responding to this question, I would like to focus on an issue that I think is central.

It is the issue of technology. The effects of technology are everywhere to be seen—from elementary school students carrying laptops to their classes to college degrees being granted to students who have done their coursework on the internet.

One of the hidden forces in this development is a kind of magical belief in the idea that technology will solve the problems that education is facing. For example, studies have found that over 80 percent of parents enthusiastically approve of the way in which their children use iPads in school. Opposition is below two percent.  Further, over 90 percent of students enthusiastically endorse the use of iPads and the way they are being used in their classes.

The result is that people are stunned when they confront reports that the iPad does not achieve more effective learning. This is only to be expected. In the main, the material offered to children on the iPad and other devices is the same material schools have offered for generations. That material was often boring and ineffective and aside from the interest generated in the first few minutes of exposure, placing it on an iPad does nothing to make the material more effective.

For example, in the domain of literacy, government figures have steadily shown that 2 out of 3 children fail to achieve proficiency in literacy.  This is a national tragedy of gigantic proportions.  The old curricula failed; the placement of that old curricula on a device does not alter the pattern of failure.  We desperately need new, well constructed curricula- in reading, math, science, and social studies.

These curricula are not being developed and little, if anything, is being done to foster their development. At the same time, we know from the results of other nations, that more effective curricula exist. In international testing, for example, the US education system consistently falls behind countries such as as Finland, Shanghai (China), South Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand.

Interestingly, it is not a lack of money that is the issue because the United States spends more than other developed nations in education, but the outcome is far from what is desirable. Can this be changed? With the right leadership, I believe it can.  It remains to be seen whether that leadership will come forth.

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