A Bird? A Plane? No: They're Super-Literates!

CEO, One-to-One Institute
Thomas Frey, of The DaVinci Institute, published The Future of Education in 2007. More than a decade ago he predicted:
“Learning will become hyper-individualized with students learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it. Most of today’s existing learning impediments will eventually go away.
As a result of this shift, we will begin to see dramatic changes in society. The speed of learning will increase tenfold because of a combination of the following factors:
  • Confidence-based learning will significantly increase learning speed and comprehension;
  • Learning what we want, when we want—shifting away from a prescribed course agenda to one that is hyper-individualized, self-selected, and scheduled whenever a student wishes to take it will dramatically change levels of motivation; and,
  • Technology improvements over time will continually improve the speed and comprehension of learning.
The speed of learning will increase tenfold, and it is possible that the equivalent of our current K-12 education system will be compressed into as little as one year’s worth of learning. In the future, we predict students entering the workforce will be ten times smarter than they are today.” (Frey, 2007)
Frey’s "Eight Drivers for Change in Education" are evident throughout society. I am most drawn by Frey’s report regarding the expanding gulf between the "functional and super literates". Frey discusses the rapid increase of vocabulary words (20,000 per year according to the NY Times) in the fields of science and technology. How do educators and students keep pace with these changes? How do we not only know the new language but understand meaning, utilization and requisite tools for development? How can super-literates meaningfully "publish" and share this information?
I looked at this same question (and recognition of this widening gap) between students/teachers who have highly engaged and grown with all kinds of technology and those who have not. I observe and interact with many educators. The levels and kinds of instructional thought processes vary greatly between these camps.
But their learners, more often than not, are super-literates. When they come to school, they are forced to become "functional" and leave at the door their life-integrated technology knowledge and skills. Some are still being scheduled into a computer lab where they can "use" the computer according to the teacher’s structured directions. An even more egregious scenario is where learners seek to bring their own devices to the classroom but are denied access for a variety of reasons. These are all solvable issues for super literate educators.
I think about this in a number of ways. Imagine a toddler who has just learned to walk being restrained from doing so and forced to instead crawl in a controlled environment. How about an expert swimmer being forced to wade in shallow water instead of having a robust swim? In both cases, the super-literate are forced to use baseline skills instead of capitalizing on current states of expertise. How will that affect long term goals and skill attainment?
Of course, in the school environment, other academic goals are provided for: whether or not in conjunction with consistent access to technology. We know this. Hence the conversation about how to share the super-literates’ knowledge and experience with those who are functional is important. But can the "sharing" come close to representing experience? Probably not.  
Fortunately, the digital learners of today live a technology rich existence outside the walls of their schools. And schools are acquiring increased tech tools. We bank on learners’ being able to parlay their personal technology experiences to those within school and their learning experiences. This is done in a number of ways. Students are finding and engaging with technology for school work wherever and however they are able. In addition to their own personal devices, students are using community resources.
In my neighborhood, you can no longer find a parking space at the library during business hours. The place is packed with students from open to close on the weekends and from 2:00 p.m. to close on weekdays. The majority of library-goers are hunched over computers doing research, projects, communicating and producing. An adult is hard pressed to get seat time in front of a computer! I interviewed a number of students who prefer the high-speed internet of the center to what they have at home. Most had home computers.
We’re way down the path of attempting to transform education. There are the haves and have-nots, but the gap is decreasing in many areas. Parents/caregivers are choosing schools where there is robust access to this century’s tools. Partnerships between schools, cities, businesses, and internet providers abound. The progress is heartening.
Now, before we pass the tipping point, we need to focus on the efficacy of education technology implementation across the board. More and more districts and schools need to ramp up to better engage their learners and communities through the power of technologies.

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