I’m at UNLV attending the 17th CALI Conference on law school computing, which is being attended by lots of library and IT types, with a few faculty members scattered into the mix. (More an “info” conference than a “law” conference, but there are a number of scheduled panel discussions and presentations that aim to bridge the gap.) The morning’s keynote was delivered by Prof. Scott McLeod of the University of Minnesota, author of the Dangerously Irrelevant blog and a good advocate for increasing the profile of technology in education of all sorts. After the break, I’ll post a summary of my notes from his keynote, entitled “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
Here’s a sampling of McLeod’s main points.
The internet is now virtually indispensable to all of us, to a degree that was inconceivable 15 years ago
- YouTube is rapidly becoming the most visited web site in the world
- Distributed computing initiatives harness collective computing capacity of otherwise idle home computers — many medical & hard sciences applications
- Wikipedia boasts 1.8 million entries in English alone, 4x as much as the Britannica, and Wikipedia updates & corrects itself almost immediately.
- Global “ideagoras” offer cash prizes to scientists who solve difficult problems posted on the sites — e.g., InnoCentive
- Many business models now expressly based on value that will be added by consumers — Flickr, Second Life, /., Amazon user reviews, Digg, del.icio.us, etc. Era of passive consumer is over.
- Online collaboration tools allow scholars to access not only each other’s completed work, but each other’s data
All that in the last 10 years. Makes it effectively impossible to imagine what 10 more years will bring. Societal change at a seismic pace, unsettling to some.
What skills will American students need in the 21st-century economy? Government & corporate organizations are flooding us with reports. Common theme: our schools aren’t up to the task. TIME cover story: “how to build a student for the 21st century”: nation is not having a big public conversation about education that it desperately needs to have.
Richard Florida (Rise of the Creative Class) notes demographic changes in the workforce between 1945-2005. All sectors of the work force are now declining except creative class, which has more than doubled in last 60 years. Creative class: Complex problem-solving requiring high levels of education & human capital. 30% of work force today, but accounts for over 50% of total wage income in the U.S. (These are the jobs you want your kids (& grandkids) to have).
Many working-class jobs are going overseas, and service-class jobs are beginning to follow them.
- jobs most vulnerable are those involving routine work — highly susceptible to automation. (E.g., tax preparation software replacing tax accountants; will preparation software replacing lawyers).
If all goes well, in 10 years U.S. economy will be dominated by creative work (R&D, design, marketing & sales, global supply chain management). Routine work will be done predominantly in less developed countries and/or by machines.
How to transform schools to meet needs of this new era?
- increase understanding. 98% of school districts have yet to have conversation about what is necessary to prepare kids for the 21st century.
- if leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen — not enough to train educators & students
- don’t just scare them. Categories: digital natives (grew up with tech) vs. digital immigrants (most of us); some of us are “bridges” (connecting natives & immigrants), others are “refugees” (avoid technology)
- Web 2.0 — interconnected, collaborative, personalized, autonomous, freewheeling, empowering.
- power in hands of users (disintermediation) — people can reach other people bypassing traditional entities (publishers, movie studios, etc.)
- computing is about people, not machines — have to engage students or they will tune out/write you off as irrelevant.
- video games as personalized learning experiences, not just rotting brains. Not so hard kids give up, not so easy that it’s boring — push kids to continue developing, that’s what makes them addictive — the next goal is always in sight & achievable
- do schools make kids active creators/participators/producers? No — we still have an industrial-era transmission paradigm, students as passive receptors/collectors of information.
- we need to change faster — making small incremental improvements won’t do it. “No one jumps a 20-foot chasm in two 10-foot jumps.” — Miguel Guhlin
- invest in smart infrastructure
- OLPC project is going to leapfrog poor nations right over big gaps in tech infrastructure.
- But here in the U.S., we still devote zero federal dollars annually to K-12 educational tech
- meaningless to measure how many teachers have internet access at school — more relevant metric is how many school classrooms have wireless internet that students can use
- conquer fear
- avoid death by risk aversion/committee/bureaucracy
Can we continue treating technology as optional? Is it really OK to allow instructors to decide whether or not to incorporate modern technologies into their instruction? Are we doing what’s best for our students, or just what’s most convenient for us?
Filed under: Law School