Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Times are still changing!

Left image: Traffic in London
Right image: Pace of life, Derby, UK

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I??
Brisbane, Australia: S: 28º 28' E: 153º 02'

Times are a changing: Part 2
I enjoyed the opportuntiy to talk at the RGSQ last night about 21st Century change and the implications for the geography curriculum and geography teahcing in the 21st Century. Had some great chats with the geography teachers attending about the future of geography in schools. Here are the rest of my thoughts on the nature of 21st Century change which was the basis of last nights talk.

* Technology pervasiveness and information access

The world is now one of:
•all pervasive technology. The use of technology impacts on every aspect of 21st Century life. For entertainment, navigation, information and work an individual is hooked up to technology. The implication of this to our understanding of the underlying principles governing many of these applications reduces our capacity to live without the technology. For example dependence on a GPS can spatially de-skill individuals who feel “quite lost” if the technology fails.

• visualisation and wanting to see what things look like. The ability of technology has drastically increased the ability to show individuals what something looks like, even on the other side of the world. The world of “seeing and knowing without going” is thriving though the virtual world of the Internet i.e. if you are interested in a holiday destination, virtual tours can give a taste; if you want to buy a house, you can view via walkthroughs. The visual coverage of every street and every house across the globe is growing day by day through the Streetview of Google Maps and the aerial view of Google Earth. Increasingly we are visiting places virtually before choosing to go there or not. No longer does one have to guess about what a thing or place looks like. The individual does not expect to be kept in the dark and only read about something!

• the instant expert. Linked to our access to information at the end of our fingertips is the birth of a population of instant experts. People feel prepared to comment and even criticise as a result of the knowledge they have attained electronically. This trend is evident by the Blogger and Twitter phenomena where individuals feel they can comment on complex issues with the same credence as an expert i.e. the demise of the film and literary critic in the media.

• cynicism and questioning. The pervasiveness of information and communication technology, combined with the power and penetration of the media has resulted in a world where people consider they are as informed as experts and those in power. Although a little cynicism or more politely the art of questioning by an individual is healthy in any society, the denial and constant challenging of expert knowledge and the motives of our leaders can become dysfunctional in a democracy.

• requiring critical analysis of issues and information. The bombardment of information and ideas an individual comes into contact with the media every day necessitates the ability to sift, customise and make sense. Such problem solving and critical analysis skills are becoming increasingly important citizenship skills for any functional individual in society. In the age of the instant expert such a skill within the general population is an imperative for an informed and considered society.

• media saturation. Individual outlay on media has grown astronomically. Whether the mobile phone, cable TV, Ipad or Internet connection people expect to be in the know. As a result the media has continued to grow as a social influence far outstripping more traditional influences, including schools.

* The phenomena of change

The world is now one of:

• constant change. Things are continually being updated and we strive for a better version. Whether computer upgrade or the latest digital TV, we expect the current version. Repair is a foreign concept, being easier to buy a new one for not much more. As well as material change we are also seeing significant societal change in terms of values and morals. What was taboo or socially unacceptable last year can soon be changed through our connectivity with the rest of the world via the power of the media. An individual in the 21st Century needs to be able to cope and adapt to change.

• fast pace. Communication technologies, information technologies and transport have resulted in the pace of life increasing. People expect and indeed demand speed of response. We are not prepared to wait for a letter to return but expect an email or answer asap. The mobile phone has contributed to the pace of life by making everyone contactable, anywhere, anytime.

• immediacy of life. If we want to find out something it is at our fingertips via Google. There is endless access to information and a huge potential for an individual to gain new knowledge immediately. This has significant implications for the need for an individual to have a bank of “known” knowledge in their brain. What is more important is how to access knowledge via the information technologies available and how to be discerning with the acquired knowledge (bias, reliability)

In summary, the world of the 21st Century a young person in our schools is presently living in and soon to be fully functional citizens of a globalised world which is highly interconnected and interdependent, media saturated, culturally diverse, technology driven, rapidly changing, information overloaded, cynical, environmentally degraded, mobile and increasingly homogeneous. How different is that to the world most 40+ teachers were born into? No Facebook, no computers, mono-cultural, only free to air TV, limited global inter-action, books the holders of knowledge etc. Our present education system was developed for the world of the 20th Century (some will argue that it is still 19th Century orientated). Can this “one size fits all” education system developed in the 20th century continue to educate effectively the 21st Century citizen. The literature says no because the needs of the 21st Century learner are vastly different in this changing world and that teachers and their pedagogy, curriculum, schools and systems need to change.

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