I want my flying car

circuit boardIt’s only fitting that while I’m creating a presentation on the power of the blogosphere that I do something like this:

David Warlick wrote a post called Our Classrooms are Irrelevant, not obsolete! Steve Dembo read that post, and responded to it with his post called High touch AND high tech. Now it’s my turn to respond to both of them.

We might be using computers and web sites, but this is still good old fashioned networking – the sharing of ideas and concepts. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling when I get to participate in a global phenomenon like this.

… but I digress. The conversation’s on what people think the classroom will be like in 2015. To summarize, one comment Mr. Warlick made was that it’s disturbing to him that so many educators think classrooms will be totally replaced with long distance learning by then. Mr. Dembo’s post continued along those lines, mentioning that to do such a thing would actually pull people apart rather than bring them together.

I totally agree with both Warlick and Dembo, but I’m not worried about the classroom disappearing. Why? Well, the answer’s quite simple.

I’ve read a lot of old science fiction.

I mean REALLY OLD science fiction. In high school I would often walk to the local used book store and buy all kinds of anthologies and other sci-fi books, many of them published before I was born. I loved entering those hundreds of fanciful universes where the writers’ futures were our present. They had some really cool ideas about what would be going on right now, but you know what?

They all got it wrong.

In some cases we’re more advanced than they ever thought we would be. (The first Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov had the characters calculating equations for faster than light travel without a computer to help them.) In other cases, we’ve advanced much slower than the writer thought we should. (I’m still waiting for my fusion powered flying car.) In all those stories, the writers were way off on what life is like today.

Sure, some of them predicted certain ideas, but looking at the big picture they couldn’t get it right.

So I don’t really think we’ll get rid of the classroom any time soon, or even in the next ten years. Kids need social, face to face interaction. They also need to use computers and understand how flat the world is becoming, but you can’t play kickball with someone on the other side of the country (unless you’ve got a VERY strong kick…) or have a chemistry lab partner on another continent.

There are some who would look at Warlick, Dembo, and myself and say that we just don’t get it, that we’re holding onto the past like so many of the industrial age teachers we criticize. My response to them is that I’ve never advocated the total abandonment of old styles. For example, there are a lot of art projects for which a sheet of paper is far superior to a laptop screen, and there always will be.

What we need to do to prepare our students for the future is to give them a healthy dose of both old and new styles. I think I could go on, but I’ll stop here and let someone else add to the chain of thought.