Friday, November 5, 2010

Educators need to realize the world has changed... Thoughts from 'the field'

Some of my Master's in education students are debating what education in the future will look like and how much school should, or should not, change. As I read their arguments I realized I had a good example for them to consider about how school has been disconnected from the realities of the world of work in the field of agriculture. Many people think agriculture is pretty much the same now as it was 50 years ago... the same view they have of education. Here is the story I shared with them.

My son is a farmer. He has a college degree in agriculture. Much of what he learned in college does apply, especially to finances etc. however because of changes in machinery some of his best training comes from years of playing video games.

His $400K harvester is run using a handheld joystick. It connects with a GPS mapping system which takes in data about the yields in every spot in every field. He watches the GPS monitor occasionally pushing buttons and changing the data he is viewing while looking at the real-time view outside the window. He glances back and forth from what he sees in the fields to the monitor with GPS info.

Even 10 years ago the harvester was operated with foot pedals and a steering wheel and there was no monitor of any kind, not GPS mapping, or yields, or even a real gauge for how full the tank of grain had become except for a window behind the farmer's head.

Every time I am in the machine with him I laugh thinking about how I used to berate him to stop wasting his time playing video games. That was actually part of his educational experience preparing him for his work as an adult. Very little of what he learned in K-12 applies to his day-to-day life. His high school didn't use technology at all, I had to visit a classroom with him one day with my projector from my middle school classroom so he could show a PowerPoint for a project!
College was more geared to what he does now and did use technology, this is where he mastered the GPS mapping systems they now use on the farm.

However it is his own self-training with video games which helps him run the harvester; and our use of computers at home to prepare him for the aspects of farming which are now Internet-based (ordering parts for repairs for example) which provided much of the training for what he does now.

If I walked into his old high school classrooms right now, ten years later, I would see the same teachers, teaching without technology, standing and delivering the same messages.

The world has changed! When will we catch up?

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