Education in the City of the Future

Wake County has one of the largest public school systems in the nation [ref]. It also has a general reputation for excellence [ref]. For example, A.B. Combs elementary school has won many awards for its innovative teaching programs.

But what will education look like in the City of the Future? We know that it will be different than it is today. As Raleigh becomes the City of the Future, the Wake County Public School System has the opportunity to leapfrog ahead and become a national model for what education will become in the future. As soon as we contemplate the School of the Future, it opens up possibilities.

What does education look like in the 21st century? This question fascinates educators and parents alike because technology is changing things so rapidly. The simplest possible example is the textbook. This traditional learning tool is likely to die in the near future, but what does its replacement look like?

We know that a 21st century school system must prepare its students for the 21st century workplace. In saying that, it is important to understand the 21st century workplace is very different from the 19th and 20th century workplaces that much of today's educational system addresses. In fact, many of today's children have to "power down" when they come to school. At home they are playing video games, surfing the web, using technologies like digital cameras and camcorders, and communicating instantaneously via cell phone and instant messaging. Their lives are electronic. Then they come to a traditional school and go back in time - back to a time of paper, blackboards and linear lessons that the whole class follows in sequence. Children have to slow their brains down to a 19th century pace when they are at school.

The curriculum of the 21st Century School System will embrace the advantages of, and the natural affinity that children have for, 21st century technologies. Obviously any curriculum must contain the essentials of reading, writing and arithmetic. To this core a 21st century curriculum adds advanced skills like leadership, negotiation and problem solving. Then it extends them using 21st century technologies and techniques. For example, "writing" in the 21st century becomes "Communication" and includes video production, web site creation and software creation. "Reading" in the 21st century includes reading of the traditional written word as well as Web research techniques, fact sifting and knowledge verification (i.e. - discerning the difference between truth and fiction in a sea of data). A compact summary of the 21st century curriculum might look like this:

  • The ability to listen (reading, researching, hearing other points of view, etc.)
  • The ability to communicate (writing, public speaking, video production, web site creation, etc.)
  • The ability to synergistically work with and lead others (leadership skills, negotiation, team building, etc.)
  • The ability to understand and creatively solve problems using math, science and technology (innovation, invention, problem solving, etc.)
A 21st century curriculum involves a change in focus. Leadership, science, technology and problem solving take center stage. They are not simply taught -- they are completely woven and integrated into the curriculum to create a synergistic whole.

It would be fantastic if the City of the Future had a school system that evolved into a national model for 21st century education. The Wake County Public School System can become the School System of the Future.

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© Copyright 2008 by Marshall Brain