How can the world be flat?

Thomas Friedman, how can this world be flat? How can your TRUE belief be that we are on a level playing field when it comes to growth and technology? Spend five minutes in my old middle school classroom and you will learn this playing field is not only spiky but the spikes are quite large. I teach in the largest urban elementary school in the area with our academy housing over 1200 students combined; my students come from different economic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. The only real flat level field they play on is they all must be in uniform. If Friedman walked into one of our middle school classrooms he would learn, most of our students do not have access to a computer in their home. Their access to technology is limited to the time spent in the classroom using our few chrome books we are able to split between classrooms. We do not have a computer lab, or a 1:1 computer program but two carts split between over 400 students. Are we level with schools that have access to brand new technology? Mr.Friedman if the world inside of our schools is not level, how can the larger world be level? Sure, there are call centers, computers in places of the world that twenty years ago did not exist. More and more countries and individuals are gaining access to modern technology. They have access but who is teaching them how to use all the different things that a computer enables them to do? What good is WiFi access if you do not know how to construct an email or skype to reach family members? This world is spiky. We have areas of great growth, education, and technology that continue to grow. As Florida’s article states the spikes are areas where top talent is being attracted to because of their brand new and cutting edge technology. For example, Boston is a spike. We have MIT, and hundreds of brilliant minds in labs working. Boston will continue to attract individuals who want to be on the cutting edge of science because of it’s great universities, research labs, and hospitals. But, what about our industrial age powerhouses? Places such as Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland have not spiked but continued to decline. What would Friedman say about the level playing field in those communities.

The Bostrom video brought up many strong points. Will there be a need for individuals in the world of the future? Walk into any Walmart, Stop and Shop, or McDonalds; you are no longer interacting with a person. Need to figure out where you are going? Gone are the days of having to use your map skills to figure out directions. GPS will tell you how to get there and how much traffic you will encounter on the way. With the increase of technology  the decrease of human interaction  and critical thinking skills are slowly declining. What will we do when the computers become smart then us? When they are thinking for us? In this day of increasing face paced technology we must still fight to maintain human connection and critical thinking skills.

 

It is enviable that technology is going to continue to  change the world. As the new and improved Ipad is set to be released in the upcoming months, we will add another layer that not everyone in the world is able to access. So, I challenge these tech gurus rather then improve the newest technology make a plan for technology to be accessible to all. If you want a level playing field, then work to make it level. When each student is able to access the internet, to have the same resources, then maybe we can start off on flat ground.

5 thoughts on “How can the world be flat?

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  1. You make a good argument! All is not rosy in the world of edtech…and if anything, the “digital divide” has grown since Friedman and Florida wrote their pieces. Yet, as bad as you noted your school being, it is here in the United States, where access is much better than globally. Over half the people on this globe do not have access to the internet – https://www.digitaltrends.com/web/4-billion-people-lack-internet-access/

    So, granted, there are issues…but how can we as educators and ed leaders accentuate what we do have?

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    1. Thank you for making me think of the positives of the tech access we DO have! After reading the articles, I felt my emotion bubble inside as I feel it is a constant fight for us to upgrade our technology so our students can succeed. My students DO have access to computers in school which allows them to practice their research skills, learn how to email, and to communicate with other students across the globe. I know there are many schools in rural areas that do not have this luxury. My hope is that the great minds behind the new technology and in the spikes of access find creative ways to to reach these schools and individuals.

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  2. There has been significant advancements in terms of access, unfortunately, just not everywhere. The opportunities for students to take online classes has opened up a whole new world for some who live in rural areas and whose schools can’t support (financially) offering certain electives or AP courses. I remember reading years ago about some school districts in northern Maine that were able to offer AP courses to a few students through VHS (Virtual High School). It was a big deal because it gave kids a chance to take a class that they otherwise would not have been able to. Jump ahead 15 years and there are thousands of online schools across the US and hundreds of thousands of students taking online classes (full and part time).

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  3. I still remember walking into my first middle school teaching experience. The school’s population was the same population of the rural farming community that I grew up in. It was very overwhelming as it was only my fourth year of teaching and it was culturally diverse, which was something that I was not exposed to in my farming community. However, I learned so much and was inspired at the same time. I agree with you, Friedman would also appreciate a visit to this school. The only internet access that most of these students had was that of a cell phone.

    When I was reading your post I thought of my high school business teacher, Miss M. She taught everything from keyboarding skills, accounting, Excel, and desktop publishing. Sadly, she retired last year, and the school no longer has these programs. Today, all of those classes she facilitated, have provided me with success in my professional and personal life. Still today, we need to know how to balance a checking account/book, manage financial records (especially in administration) and be knowledgable on how to use and comprehend a computer and programs that associate with our line of work. I will be forever grateful for the experiences that she provided in the classroom for my line of work today.

    I worry too, about the lack of interactions we have with people. I don’t know how many times I go out to eat and observe a family all on their phone or technological devices. It saddens me, that children are not able to have a conversation or that of coping skills to express how they are feeling. There are times I will be in the grocery check out line and the only socialization I receive from the cashier is that of how much I owe.

    Thank you for your thoughts, I agree!

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  4. As I read both articles — especially with Bostrum’s concern about technology lacking human values in mind — I had a lot of similar thoughts. Florida’s article, too, was utterly convincing in describing the spiky world in which we live.

    Friedman made note of something interesting that runs counter to our concerns, though: he mentioned digital money being pioneered in Africa. When I read this, I took note because not too long ago there was a 60 Minutes segment that covered the digital money boom in Kenya. Even a few years or so ago when the segment aired, it had apparently been a strong, workable system. And — poof! — we now have Apple Pay, Venmo, and other apps/technology that allow us to send digital money from one bank account to another.

    Perhaps this is cynical, but I do wonder how things might change when the major banks that are the behemoths of Florida’s spiky “ecosystems” put the full weight of their attention (and time, and money, and marketing, and lobbying power) into this particular use of “flattening” technology. Will it be another moneymaker that only makes the bases of the banking world’s spikes stronger, or will it help all segments of the population, or will it accomplish both?

    (If you’re interested, the segment is here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/want-to-text-money-kenya-has-been-doing-it-for-years/)

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