Danger, Will Robinson!

Image via Duane Romanell on Flickr

Do you remember Robby the robot on the TV show Lost in Space? And how charmingly his arms would flail about as he warned of impending doom?

I’ve been seeing Robby a lot in my mind’s eye in the past few months.

First there was the KnowledgeWorks Foundation 2020 Report. Then HASTAC‘s Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. And now The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy.

I’m trying to keep up.

This 2020 Forecast illuminates how we are shifting toward a culture of creation in which each of us has the opportunity – and the responsibility – to make our collective future. People are creating new selves, organizations, systems, societies, economies, and knowledge.” (2020 Forecast)

“The university model of teaching and learning relies on a hierarchy of expertise, disciplinary divides, restricted admission to those considered worthy, and a focused, solitary area of expertise. However, with participatory learning and digital media, these conventional modes of authority break down.

Individuals learn anywhere, anytime, and with greater ease than ever before. Learning today blurs lines of expertise and tears down barriers to admission. While it has never been confined solely to the academy, today’s opportunities for independent learning have never been easier nor more diverse.” (HASTAC’s Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age)

“To lead a revolution in math and science education, teachers themselves need opportunities to experience powerful math and science learning.” (The Opportunity Equation)

As I read these reports, I feel a conflicting swirl of emotions. Excitement, and concern that there are nowhere near enough school-based folk who “get it.”

This is where Robby comes in. The last event in my life that called to mind his panicky, ineffectual, arm-waving response to perceived danger was the arrival of Judith Rodin as the Ivy League’s first female president in 1994 when I worked at UPenn.

The reactions of staff on campus to the announcement of her selection were striking. The overwhelming majority of people I knew were thrilled, especially after they had a chance to hear her speak about her vision for Penn. A small but agitated minority of folks were doing their Robby impressions.

These were the people, I figured out, who were afraid that the new Penn wouldn’t be a place where they would feel at home. Most of us were excited. (And the women, especially, were sporting ear-to-ear grins.) But a few folks were verging on arm-waving panic. We were confident that our work would continue to add value to Penn in a demonstrable way. The “Robby” folks? Suddenly worried that they might be irrelevant.

I am so grateful that reports on the future of learning are exciting to me. And I hope you’re feeling that way, too!


Posted on July 1, 2009, in big picture. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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