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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reading Friedman's Thank You For Being Late

I heard the President of Union College, Stephen C. Ainlay, PhD refer to Thomas L. Friedman's book, Thank You for Being Late twice last year. I ordered the book since I wanted to read a synthesis of the evolution that's happening in our midst, an evolution from the industry-age to the tech-age, and I wanted to think about how this evolution should impact the way I teach and lead students as well as advocate for optimal change in schools and learning organizations everywhere.

The book is fascinating as Friedman tells the story of many encounters with innovators and leaders who have successfully worked over time and/or are currently working in modern-day organizations and systems. His facts and figures support a vision for education that many educators are advocating for--a vision that supports students' active tech-connected learning and networking to boost their abilities to create, innovate, communicate, make good decisions and navigate a global society that is accelerating at a rapid, exponential pace.

As I read the book, I thought about teaching fifth graders and what I need to do to help ready them for the "dynamic stability" they will need to navigate an ever-changing, interdependent global community.

First, just reading the book helps me to learn the vocabulary of this new tech age and then to use that vocabulary with students. For example when we discuss knowledge, we can think about knowledge flows--what those look like, how they act and the ways that we can successfully contribute to and learn from these flows. We can use examples of worldwide communities that are successful such as Airbnb, communities where members create profiles, connect with one another, rate their experiences, share a platform (go-to place), and utilize/build trust. We can also use open source models as we learn by creating a virtual and real-time environment where information is available for those who need it and collaboration is supported, encouraged, and accessible all the time.

Further in modern-day schools that prepare students for this exponentially accelerating world of global interdependence, we can encourage real-world, meaningful explorations that both develop knowledge, skill and concept standards while also fostering processes that enable students to study real-world problems with technology/smart tools and strategies/processes to impact, inform, and innovate.

With these tools, we can learn about modern-day tech by having fun. We can foster "Viral Competitions" where students are given the task of creating multimedia presentations, posting those presentations, and noticing whose projects gained the most traction by using available metrics. We can research and analyze why some projects gained more traction and then we can try again. This real-world, meaningful and positive interaction with technology's capabilities will immerse students in the experience with computational thinking, data collection/analysis, critical thinking, creativity and communication.

We can tell students the stories of successful entrepreneurs across the world and connect as individuals or as a class to those inventors' knowledge flows. For example, just yesterday it was announced that a young man from India made the smallest satellite ever--we could read his story, reach out to him on Twitter, and discuss the timeline of events and actions that led to this innovation.

In terms of advocacy, we can work for more modern schools where new-age technology including social media, sensors, networks, open source, coding, software, robotics and more are more open, accessible and integrated into the learning and teaching we do. We can work with our teams to collaborate around new-age learning design that meets systemwide expectations in ways that foster deep engagement, the design process, technology integration, use of open source systems, and share/development. And we can look for better ways to collaborate to connect and contribute to knowledge flows at our schools, systems and beyond. By availing ourselves more to the wealth of knowledge, skill and interest that exist in valuable individuals near and far, we will boost what we're able to do with and for students.

The modern world of learning is a networked, democratic world where old-time hierarchical organizations and expectations are losing their foothold and being replaced by a much more open system of creativity and share for all the world's people. As Friedman notes, countries that embrace these knowledge flows of contribution and exchange will be most successful. It's important to take note of this as we want to give our students the tools they need to succeed and be happy today and into the future.

I took a lot of notes as I read which can be found via this Storify.