Wednesday, February 09, 2011

2011 - The Year Education becomes Flat

It's been almost 6 years since the initial publication of Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat."  This is  one of the books that transformed me as an educator.  There are others that I read before it (Negroponte's "Being Digital") and others that I read after it (Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody"), that had a profound affect on me, but it was the one book that was truly transformative.  The World is Flat is a book that talks about the forces of change and clearly delineates how these forces will change the world.

As most professional educators know, it takes 5-7 years for things that are common place in business to even get a basic or cursory usage within education.  Well, that is where we are now....

The 10 Flattners that Friedman spoke about in "The World is Flat" were directly related to society as a whole and the first three directly related to historical events that occurred to create the openness necessary to allow the final 7 "flattners" to take place.  The first flattner, "The fall of the Berlin Wall," is an extremely important event, because it eliminates the competition of socialist societies.  In education, we are wholly controlled by the government from management to funding, therefore any advances that run contrary to the current government structure are banned.  The one flattner, that has had the greatest affect on education is the rise of Open Source and Free Software.  Friedman talks about software like the development of the Netscape web browser and the development of other open source projects like the Apache web server software and Linux operating systems.  Now, we are seeing a convergence of many of these tools into one, which has brought the price of Internet connected devices down and made them more common place than they had been before.  The most interesting of these new devices is the Chrome Notebook.  It is a netbook computer, which has retailed for as low as $250 with Windows pre-installed.

A Chrome netbook, is running the Google Chrome operating system, no Windows, and runs much faster than typical devices because all of the data is stored on Google's Internet servers.  The anticipated cost of a Chrome Netbook is expected to be in the $250 range.  If Google could deliver this to school at a cost less than $200, it would be a game changer.

Here is an explanation of the Chrome OS.

I am also going to take a look at the equity and access issues in society and how things are quickly becoming more and more accessible for all and they are all FREE.