T.H.E. Journal reports that Texas is leaving the door open for schools to purchase electronic textbooks in addition to paper books.
While this change does not take education to the totally open and flexible iTunes purchasing model as some would prefer, it does provide significant flexibility to districts. In addition, it opens up the Texas market to a large number of companies that heretofore had no chance to compete. For the basal publishers that have owned the market, creativity and flexibility will, or at least should, become a new mantra.
California’s e-learning proposial is stil being sorted out.
There are already worrying signs that California is trying to go digital on a shoestring. Traditionally, publishers provide schools with a complete package: student textbooks, teacher’s guides with sample lessons and tests, and teacher training courses. In the emerging model, teachers must assemble their own package, combining e-books with free course “wikis” (shared online resources any user can update or revise), and networking with other teachers over the web to share best practices. It’s a new responsibility some would prefer to avoid.
The digital divide needs to be closed not just in hardware, but even more important in what to do with the hardware and software. Most teachers are not online in any significat way and and have never created a wiki or blog. Schools will have to open up their filtering and the 19th century modle of edcation will have to be scraped.
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As I was looking through my Authors@Google subscription this morning I found a talk by Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank. The bank give micro-loans of a few dollars to the poor of Bangladesh who then use the money to start businesses in their villages. The bank has been so successful that 7 million people in Bangladesh now receive loans and the rate of repayment is 98%. I learned about this bank through my wife, Nena, who read Yunus’s book. As I listened to Yunus’s talk about how the bank works I was struck by his approach to teaching the poor of Bangladesh how to start and run a small business. The bank doesn’t “teach” business skills, they believe that everyone is an entrepreneur and all a person needs is someone to believe they can be successful.
They I read Pete Reilly’s blog post The Wolves of Learning.
Our natural curiosity is like a wild animal; it hunts where it needs to in order to satisfy its deep hunger. As children, we awaken each day with an insatiable appetite to learn. It is in our early years that we are “wolves of learning”. There is a deep, DNA-based, natural connection between learning and survival; call it the burning relevance of the empty stomach.
Pete writes that we have domesticated “the wolves of learning” and children now expect to be feed with out going on the hunt. Unlike Yunus, our education system does not believe that everyone is a natural learner and entrepreneur. We believe that children need to be taught and teachers have the answers. As Yunus has shown that is not true. Or as Pete says,
Let us find ways to give our children back their birthright, their natural curiosity and facility to learn. There have to be ways that we can organize our learning institutions to accommodate individual curiosity and the standardized curriculum. I believe that thoughtful educators can create environments that are less restrictive and provide much more natural habitat for learning. Let us find ways to foster the wildness and thrill of learning again. Let us answer the “Call of the Wild”.
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