Thousands of the children of Juarez live in houses like the one shown above. These homes are often a few dozen yards from El Paso, Texas and seldom more that 20 miles from the United States. As you would assume, if these children do manage to go to school they do not learn much.
The little boy in this picture could have a real chance to get a basic education — and maybe a lot more — through handschooling. Wireless is not available yet in most of Juarez, but near the border there is some connectivity. There are Juarez kids who can be connected to the web right now. Each one would need a mobile device with a web browser. The old saying goes, you save one child at a time.
Certainly there are many, many places across the world where this picture could have been taken. Think about it: To assume we can or will provide good schools for all the children living under conditions like these is folly. That simply will not happen. But today, right now, you can connect at least one kid somewhere.
BTW: The picture above is from Siguiendo los Pasos de Jesus (SPJ), which is a truly wonderful and effective project assisting families in Juarez. If you are touched by the plight of Mexican families in the midst of the drug chaos in their country, SPJ is a place where your help will be strong and effective. They are not set up to connect kids for handschooling, but their website describes many other kinds of help that would be meaningful.
Writing from El Paso, where my family has been since before 1900,
“A third of all American adults own a smartphone and for many minority and low income users, those mobile devices have replaced computers for Internet access.” So beings an article in today’s Washington Post. As usual, education is overlooked in the discussion — yet from the facts in the article the implications for engaging students in knowledge rattle the foundation of education as we know it. And that is a beautiful thing.
Those groups who are most under-served by schools today are carrying the world’s knowledge in their pocket — accessible there through their smartphone’s web browser. Minority and low income kids have not been lavished at home with cool PCs (in the olden days of the 1990s) and laptops (more recently). Their internet access has too often been in dysfunctional school computer labs where their online time has been limited or nonexistent — and controlled by curriculum and filters.
Of those who solely rely on smartphones to surf the Web, most are minorities, younger than 30 and have low incomes. They’ve found mobile devices as a suitable replacement for buying expensive computers and paying DSL or cable modem bills every month. . . . Cable and DSL remain faster, but that difference may not be big enough to justify their high costs for some consumers.
The implications here are global, and the trends are breathtaking serendipity. Here are the big steps as they have happened:
The internet began.
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (the web) in which anything can be connected to anything.
Experts have been pouring everything known into the web for nearly 20 years.
Cellphones have morphed into smartphones.
Smartphones have web browsers — so everything known can be looked at by their owners.
AND NOW –
The smartphones are proving the cheaper, and thus preferred web access.
Minority, low income, and young users are carrying smartphones.
And, best of all, knowledge delivered through those smartphones is post racial!
This post is to suggest a large concept for the future of education. The concept has two parts:
1. The standardized concept is obsolete for knowledge that is nationalized (USA), culturalized (Moslem), state enforced (China).
2. As what is known by humankind becomes a global networked that each youngster interacts with individually, nurture of each child needs to remain individually local.
Let’s say a student in Lincoln, Nebraska with her iPad, a student in Alexandria, Egypt with his Android phone Web browser, a student in Shenzhen, China using a laptop — the three will simultaneously be learning about earthquakes here: Latest Earthquakes in the World
How can it make sense for each of the three to be required to learn from that earthquake webpage different stuff required by education standards in Washington, Cairo, or Beijing? Government, religious, cultural standards become irrelevant when an individual student is interacting directly with globally vetted knowledge.
If we did not have the schools we have now in Lincoln, Alexandria, and Shenzhen, what kind of education would we invent for the new connected world in which our children will live? We need to figure that out.
For sure, our goal is not to fix the schools, it is to educate our kids. And in the process we must be sure they continue to have our nurture at home as knowledge becomes global and virtual.
In this video presentation from NUMBERSUSA.ORG, Roy Beck uses each gumball to represent one million impoverished people. The theme of Beck’s presentation is the futility of immigration as a means of curing poverty. He concludes that it is much more effective to bring the change to where they live to lift the 5.6 billion people represented by the gumballs, than to solve their woes through immigration. Let’s use the gumballs to think about handschooling:
Most of the 5.6 billion people represented in the gumballs already have a mobile phone. Soon essentially all of them will.
Impoverish people, as Beck calls these billions, are trending strongly to leapfrogging stationery computers to use the internet, connecting online with their mobiles instead.
Most of the student-aged population in the gumballs have inadequate schools or none at all. The task of building, equipping, and running enough schools could take decades — if indeed it can be done at all. Each gumball = a million students, which is the number of students in the world’s largest school system, in New York City. That system has more than 1600 individual schools. Even a handful of gumballs is many hundreds of schools.
Instead of pouring money into building a hundreds of old time brick and mortar schools each year, to enroll a gumball or two worth of students, why not enlightened Beck’s full jars of student-age and older people right away? They can use their mobiles to browse the Web to locate knowledge and learn it.
I suggest you watch Beck’s video and think about it in terms of education instead of immigration. The massiveness of th challenge of building schools is made dramatically clear — yet the handschooling solution is within our easy reach.
In the United States there are decades-old inequalities that affect mostly African-American and Hispanic students. In just about every country’s and culture’s education there are groups to whom the short stick of education is the norm. Eradicating these habits is not easy, and at best will take time. The minorities now school age are very unlikely to get their hands on a long stick of learning.
YET THEY CAN DO JUST THAT!!
With a mobile device in a student’s hands, browsing the open Web connects to exactly the same knowledge to learn for every student. The online knowledge each student connects to is identical. The device and those who created the knowledge have no idea who is connected to the subject matter, so they cannot have prejudices against the student.
It is fascinating to watch educators who blithely ignore the emergence of individual control of learning as it is empowered by mobile devices. In the report below from Associated Press, religious leaders in Iran have imposed restrictions on teaching by revising course content and eliminating courses at universities. The boy in the picture above is connecting to websites of his own choosing from anywhere on earth.
So far, the fact that they do not all have mobiles that browse the web is the major reason every kid on earth is not yet accessing knowledge the way the boy is. That is changing fast. Governments, such as China, also still have some capacity to block and censor the web.
Over the next few years, which do you think will choose what a student learns: 1. The mobile-owning student with individual direct access to open knowledge online? OR 2. The educators who shape the curricula at universities and attempt to block internet content they disapprove? Iranian Abolfazl Hassani apparently thinks it will be the educators who control what a student studies:
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran has imposed new restrictions on 12 university social sciences deemed to be based on Western schools of thought and therefore incompatible with Islamic teachings, state radio reported Sunday.
The list includes law, philosophy, management, psychology, political science and the two subjects that appear to cause the most concern among Iran’s conservative leadership — women’s studies and human rights.
“The content of the current courses in the 12 subjects is not in harmony with religious fundamentals and they are based on Western schools of thought,” senior education official Abolfazl Hassani told state radio.
Hassani said the restrictions prevent universities from opening new departments in these subjects. The government will also revise the content of current programs by up to 70 percent over the next few years, he said.