Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Retro to Emerging Designs

1. Retro (far left) 2. Conventional 3. Contemporary 4. New 5. Emerging (far right)
These are five states we find ourselves at different times in our lives. Like these products we are either out-of-date, conventional, up-to-date, on the cutting-edge, or early-adopters.

One of the problems with education is that schools, teachers, and students are inescapably and perpetually out of phase with each other.

School systems (standards, curriculum, textbooks, tests) are generally in either a retro or a conventional state. We teach and test knowledge about the world as it existed about 10-20 years ago. One study found that up to 90% of what is in some textbooks is no longer true.

Teachers are usually in a conventional or contemporary state. We teach what is currently known and generally accepted (nothing too controversial) and add things that have occurred since the textbooks were published even though we know it won't be on the test. We're on average only about 5-10 years behind the times. We start using colloquial sayings right about when our students stop using them.

Students are living in a new or emerging state. They experience new things before teachers and are early adapters of emerging ideas. They live in the "new" era and take the "emerging" era in stride. As they adapt to the new, rather than noticing all the new ideas and skills they are learning, the only thing we seem to see is what they aren't learning of the old.

The phones above symbolize (from left to right) the (1) retro, (2) conventional, (3) contemporary, (4) new, and (5) emerging states. We never really know which way the future will go for sure but the phone on the far right is embedded in a flexible material and can be wrapped around your wrist like a bracelet. With the passage of time these will, of course, migrate to the left as the "contemporary" and the "new " are replaced with the emerging ideas.

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