April 27, 2006

The World is Spiky 2

David Noble is also working his way through The World is Flat – they must be right when they say the UK is two years behind the USA, at least when it comes to reading tomes.

I do believe the world is becoming flatter for those of us who are connected and educated enough in how to exploit this connectivity for our development and the development of those around us. Unfortunately, that does not cover everyone. The digital divide is cited by David and others as the main stumbling block in the World Is Flat theory. I see the digital divide as more than simply access to kit:

  1. Understanding how to use the connectivity
    Most of the kids I know have their own MySpace, MSNSpace or Bebo pages. They don’t have a clue what they’re doing on it, or that they can be googled with remarkable ease. Think of all those job interviews in the future: “So, Miss T., when you were 15 you got drunk with your mates and vandalised your school playground…?” Understanding how to use the connectivity once you’ve got it is far more difficult than plugging in the computer and internet. Cf. Digital Literacy, social literacy, constructivism.

    Creativity is seen by many as the tipping point where youngsters in the West can strive ahead of their competitors in the East.

  2. But being creative is not possible for everyone
    Hugh McLeod has pointed out in a cartoon which currently escapes me, "some people are too boring to blog" (his quote, not mine). Not everyone will have something to say. (If their using their blog as a learning blog, though, this hardly matters. The gain is in the process of the task). And as one of the TESOL tutors at Moray House pointed out, not everyone can podcast with as dulcet tones as, say, Mark. This is not the fault of people, though, this is the fault of the schooling system of the Western world. Sir Ken Robinson, last year at SETT, gave some startling figures to do with measuring creativity in terms of ‘genius’ from nursery through to end of formal education. Whereas 98% of our youngest children are classed at Genius level in creativity, by the time they have reached the end of formal education, around 16 years old, that level has fallen to 2%. What have we done?

  3. Being creative is not exclusively a Western attribute
    Tara Hunt, Pinko Marketer and jolly nice gal whom I met at Les Blogs last year, has been spending some time recently in Bangalore where she and her incredibly talented programming man Chris discovered that these guys in India have better ideas for innovation than most of the tech camps they have been on in the USA. Look out! Creativity can be outsourced, too.

  4. Outsourcing is soon not going to be about lowly jobs
    So if creativity could be outsourced then Friedman’s sigh of relief that the world is better off if the USA can rid itself of the grimy number-crunching jobs to Asia is misled. It won’t just be number-crunching that ends up offshore, but the creative juices of India and China (and, of course, South Korea) will creep up at a rate of knots and bite us all in the backside.

So what’s in store for our students? Attributes of what learners should be are widely documented and discussed. We’ve even got a national policy and framework for that, which I reckon hits the mark. But what roles will our young Scots (or Americans, or Canadians, or Slovenes) have in the future?


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What our students will be doesn't just depend on their creativity - nor, to look at another of your mantras, the teach, let alone the tech. It'll depend on their drive. Look at Progress Report : after a few pointed remarks at my last tutorial with the contributors, one of them has roused herself enough to make some progress, while the other is nowhere to be seen. Has she lost the will to live? And these are *paying* customers - so the parents are behind them. A good dose of fire in the belly is what distinguishes the achievers from the rest - and there are far more of "the rest" where I'm sitting.

I reckon the world flattens when you're plugged in, but from the vantage point of those not yet in that position, it probably looks vertical!

I'm in class supervising some S3 boys who are not taking part in Sports Day (about to go outside as I'm as bored as they are!), but overhearing an interesting conversation. "What's a modem?" and "I just don't understand computers" - long way to go with them I think!

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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