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Speaker: Education needs to be transformed
David Houle, a futurist and strategist, speaks Tuesday night about the future of education at a dinner at Chatmoss Country Club. (Photo by Kim Barto)
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Futurist David Houle said the educational system in the U.S. is outdated and needs to be transformed.
Largely forget the word “reform” in education, and, instead, “start over,” said Houle, who describes himself as a futurist, or one who looks to and provides analysis of the future.
“Take some action, large or small,” he added.
Houle spoke Tuesday night at a dinner at Chatmoss Country Club for about 20 officials of the Martinsville school system, city government, Patrick Henry Community College, the Harvest Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs and Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. He will give the keynote address at the city schools’ school convocation between 8:45 and 10:45 a.m. today at Martinsville High School’s auditorium.
According to Houle, his website and an email from the school system, Houle delivered keynotes on five continents last year and is consistently ranked as one of the top futurists and futurist keynote speakers on major search engines. He often is called the “CEOs’ futurist,” having spoken to or advised 2,000-plus CEOs and business owners in the past four years.
He was part of the executive team that launched MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1 and CNN Headline News.
Houle and Jeff Cobb wrote “Shift Ed, A Call to Action for Transforming K-12 Education,” which school administrators with the city school system have been studying this summer.
Among the many ideas presented by Houle on Tuesday night and in the book “Shift Ed” are:
• Open up to a much higher level of electronic connectivity (Internet and other technology) in schools and help children acquire the skills necessary for using the technology effectively.
• Abolish year-based grade levels and end the Agricultural Age practice of summer vacation.
• Use current knowledge about the brain to develop effective learning practices.
• “End the tyranny” of boxlike classrooms and broadly implement more flexible approaches to school design.
• Make schools “community-centric,” or more fully integrated into both local and global communities. Possibilities Houle suggested included connecting a class in Martinsville to a class, say, in Shanghai or Munich, and opening schools up more for community use, such as adult education or library use.
• Add the five C’s to the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic). The five C’s are: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, content and context. “Content is no longer the static and highly protected object that it once was,” “Shift Ed” states. “The possibilities for accessing, reusing, remixing and altering content are now infinite.” Context deals with relating what’s being learned in the classroom to the real world.
• People, institutions and societies must develop the skill of adapting rapidly and radically to the new circumstances in which they find themselves.
• Houle asked if it makes sense to have students memorize facts that can be looked up quickly on the Internet, or to make students turn off their cell phones in class rather than use cell phones as a tool for learning.
“For the first time in history, no time or distance limits human communication,” he said.
• He said this is a decade of great transformation, including accelerated electronic connectedness, flow to global and flow to the individual (where consumers and individuals have more power).
• Public confidence in K-12 education in the United States is low. Many businesses are finding that neither high school nor college graduates are as prepared for the working world as they need to be.
• Educators must be forward-thinking, he said. “If you are thinking the way you did 10 or 20 years ago, retire,” he said.
• According to Houle and “Shift Ed,” four generations key to transforming education are Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, the Millennials and what he calls the Digital Natives. Baby Boomers represent a bridge to the past. Generation Xers (born from the early 1960s to the early 1980s) will have educational leadership positions for years to come, and the majority of parents of school-age children are from that generation. The Millennials (born from 1983-97) have been characterized as a civic generation, and the Digital Natives can remember only the digital age.
In introducing Houle to the audience, Schools Superintendent Pam Heath said for some time she has felt there has been a growing disconnect between what is taught in grades K-12 and what the economy needs. And she said Houle has “a powerful message.”
During a period for questions and comments after Houle’s talk, Robert Williams, vice chairman of the Martinsville School Board, questioned Houle about some of the points he had made. Williams said at one point he thinks school systems need to find things they have done well and do those better.