Each Shall Be "Super Literate"

CEO, One-to-One Institute

Thomas Frey, of The DaVinci Institute, published, “The Future of Education” in 2007.  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

·       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 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 integrated technology knowledge and skills.  On some occasions, they may be 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 that we know are 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 capitalize 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. We bank on their being able to parlay their personal technology experiences to those within the school environment. This is done in a number of ways. Students are finding and engaging technology access 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, keyboarding papers, 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 the future of education. Now there are the haves and have nots. Parents/caregivers are choosing schools where there is robust access to this century’s tools. More and more districts and schools need to ramp up to serve their learners and communities.

Leslie Wilson, founder and CEO of One-to-One Institute, has served education for 38+ years in top level, key decision-making roles at state and local levels. Recognized as an international expert in education technology, Wilson is a frequent writer, presenter and interviewee. Among her many publications, she co-authored, “Project RED-The Technology Factor, Nine Keys to Student Achievement and Cost Effectiveness” which is the most broadly used research around successful implementation of 1:1 technologies in schools.


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