Second interview in Taiwan

[At the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007 I gave two interviews to the press in Taiwan which may be useful in this context. This is the second]

Block I: On the origin and the spirit of the school of the future

Question 1:
How will the development of technology transform education? What are the advantages and disadvantages that may result from these transformations?

EC: The development of technology, by itself, will not necessarily transform education. It is undeniable that technology changes the world: the way we do things, the way we work, the way we communicate with one another, the way we access information, the way we amuse ourselves, the way we learn. By changing the world, it makes it advisable or even necessary to change education. But the decision to change how we educate is always ours. George Scharffenberger once said that educators can use technology to support what schools already do, maintaining their practice and resisting change; or to supplement what schools already do, reforming their practice piecemeal and so partially accepting change; or to subvert what schools do, so making it necessary to reinvent their practice. So technology is, at best, an inductor or a catalytic agent for change.

Question 2:
How was the idea of the school of the future originated? Why should the school of the future be promoted?

The idea of the school of the future originated from the fact that the world in which we live and educate changed – changed drastically – in the last sixty years or so. Throughout this lengthy process of change, the school, as an institution, changed very little. Things came to a point, however, in which some people concluded that the school must either change or gradually become obsolete as an organization where people learn and are educated. So these people became engaged in a process of creating a new school – and this new school received the name of “school of the future”. The name is a bit misleading, because this new school is not needed in the future: it is needed right now. The school of the future should be promoted because the school we now have is no longer doing what it ought to be doing: serving as an environment where people can effectively learn – that is, acquire the knowledge and the competencies necessary for living and being successful in the complex, changing and flexible world of the 21st century.

Question 3:
How is the school of the future defined and characterized? What can the school of the future do or provide that cannot be achieved by regular schools in general?

The school of the future is focused on the future, not on the past. It exists not to transmit knowledge, beliefs, values, customs, traditions of the past from one generation to the other, but to help people construct knowledge and mental models, develop skills and competencies, and forge values and attitudes that can make the world of the future a better place. Regular schools have not succeeded in forming people that are committed to avoiding violence, terrorism, war, fanaticism and promoting security, freedom, peace, tolerance. The school of the future must set the promotion of these values at the heart of its objectives. It is only when they have security and freedom in a peaceful and tolerant environment that people can develop to their fullest potential.

Question 4:
What are the influences the school of the future may have on functions of schools in society?

It is not going to be possible to create schools with a new profile in the required quantities fast enough. But we need to create a few to show that a new school is possible. And these new schools, these schools of the future, will serve as examples and seedbeds of change for present schools.

Question 5:
What should we be cautious about when developing and promoting the school of the future?

If we want to create a new school, a really innovative school, we cannot start from assumptions and presuppositions very similar to the ones we have today. If we do, we will end up with a school that will not be very different from what we have today. To arrive at a new, truly innovative school, we need to start with radically different assumptions and presuppositions. I give one example. Present schools assume that children learn by being taught, and that the best way to teach them is to assemble them physically in a specific place (the school classroom) and teach them together in groups during periods of equal duration (the class). The school of the future will probably assume that students learn a lot of important things by themselves, reading, watching TV, navigating through the Internet, interacting with their peers, inside and outside the school. That is: it assumes that people learn anytime and anywhere – and in several different ways. The challenge is to create a school that is a technology-rich learning environment that takes seriously how technology-empowered people learn.

Question 6:
How will the concept of education and methods of teaching as we know them be affected by the rise of the school of the future?

It is not the case that the new school will affect our concept of education and our methods of promoting learning. It is the other way around. The fact is that a new concept of education and new conceptions of how learning is best promoted will force us to create a new school – the school of the future.

Question 7:
How will the roles of teachers and students be affected in the school of the future?

For one thing, teachers will not teach (present information, transmit knowledge, deliver content) in the new school – because in a technology-rich environment information, knowledge, and content are at the fingertips of anyone. Teachers will not be content specialists, but mentors, coaches, counselors, advisers, and facilitators of learning – and learning will not be synonymous with absorbing or assimilating information, but with becoming capable of doing that which we could not do before… Students will need to focus on becoming autonomous and competent learners. And, unless they have already been corrupted by previous schooling, they normally are curious, inquiring, desirous and motivated to learn.

Block II: On the planning and the vision of the school of the future in Taiwan

Question 1:
What is the key to success in building a school of the future?

Vision, motivation (commitment), competence (planning, serach and mastery of resources, execution and persistence).

Question 2:
What approaches have been taken to promote the school of the future in Taiwan?

This I cannot tell. I know that Taiwan has been involved with this program for several years now, with a project in the city of Taipei. Now a new project is going to be launched Kaoshiung. I am convinced that both will be a success. But I do not dare answering specific questions about the implementation of the program in Taiwan.

Block III: On the current development of the school of the future in the world

Question 1:
What are the trends in the development of the schools of the future in the world?

The School of the Future program started with a pilot in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Now it is being implemented in about 20 countries all over the world. Taiwan is one of these countries. The projects are very diverse, respecting the local reality of each country.

Question 2:
What are some major features of the schools of the future that have been built around the world?

Except for the Philadelphia project, recently inaugurated, they are all beginning.

Eduardo Chaves
February 2007

Transcribed here from Salto on the 5th of October of 2007

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