Over at Open Education, Thomas J. Hanson writes about a 2006 report by Dr. David Wiley to the Panel on Innovative Teaching and Learning Strategies for the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. In his report, Wiley suggests that

“higher education has adapted very little” to the changes described by Friedman in his bestselling book and is therefore “in very real danger of becoming irrelevant.”

According to Hanson, he goes on to describe a typical college classroom:

“Students are inside a classroom (tethered to a place), using textbooks and handouts (printed materials), they must pay tuition and register to attend (the experience is closed), talking during class or working with others outside of class is generally discouraged (each student is isolated though surrounded by peers), each student receives exactly the same instruction as each of her classmates (the information presented is generic), and students are students and do not participate in the teaching process (they are consumers).”

Wiley also describes what students experience outside of class:

“From her dorm room / the student center / a coffee shop / the bus a student connects to the Internet using her laptop (she is mobile), uses Google to find a relevant web page (a digital resource which is open for her to access). While carrying out her search, she chats with one friend on the phone and another using instant messaging to see if they can assist in her search (she is connected to other people), she follows links from one website to another exploring related information (the content is connected to other content), she quickly finds exactly the information she needs, ignoring irrelevant material (she gets what is important to her personally), and she shares her find with her friends by phone and IM (she participates in the teaching process).”

Wiley’s point is more than just the difference between classroom and life outside that world. He’s concerned that there is a growing gap between school and the “real” world of business, of science and of the “Flat World” described by Thomas Friedman.

My point?

This sounds too familiar.

It’s not just higher ed, it’s K-12 too. MS and HS kids go through this every day. My own 15 year old puts down his laptop, his phone and his iPod before he travels to school and just as quickly picks them up after football practice. And it’s likely that the disconnect will continue.

K-12 educators need to find ways to use real-life tools and scenarios as part of everyday instruction. And more and more, those real-life tools are found in the Web 2.0 world.

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Hanson makes an interesting observation.

It must be noted that in closing his presentation to the panel, Wiley referred to the words of W. Edwards Deming.

“It is not necessary to change,” stated Deming. “Survival is not mandatory.”