“The illiterate of the 21st century won’t be those who can’t read or write but those who can’t learn and unlearn.”kids brainAlvin Toffler



Had a good discussion about my web based global children’s education initiative idea … project global generation < http://projectglobalgeneration.com/  > … with a friend the other night.

I was asked the question “why don’t you think it has gone anywhere?”


And I remembered I had not posted something I had written to answer this question.

The simple answer?


In general … people want to go backward rather than go forward.


Let me explain with a quick example <many many more to follow later>.

kids komprehensionThru TEDdiscussion groups <of which I am part of> …


<about today’s education> … “.. the technological “solutions” are either a boondoggle — or a form of mass control.” – TED member



I got grumpy with TED but at the same time it helped me understand the challenges a web based global education initiative faces.


I admit.

I have been puzzled by why (1) no one, who can actually do something,  has expressed any interest in the project global generation web based education model for children and (2) only a very small group of people are actually discussing any kind, children or adult, of web based education system.



Until now.


Because reality has come crashing down on me like … well … a frozen turkey thrown from a helicopter on thanksgiving <that is a WKRP tv show reference>.


I am in a minority. A significant minority on this topic. It is from within another fascinating TED discussion in which I am finally finding some old people who don’t think, act or say old things … but it is a really really small minority.


Most discussion group TED participants sound … well … old … and antiquated … and a propensity to look at the past as some golden age <of education at least>. They say things like:



“We are remaking our children in the image of machines which are incapable of understanding … or feeling for others.” 



“.. the whole discussion is about reading comprehension–and writing is an integral part of that. The technological “solutions” are either a boondoggle–or a form of mass control.”web is problem mr peabody-and-sherman


“ we need a more traditional education with spiritual awareness.”



“Ideally, a class with twelve students. Different types–artistic, athletic, scientific, philosophical–integration of physical and creative activities–no distracting digital technologies–there are schools like this–Montessori schools for example–elite schools for the children of computer moguls do not allow technology– I am trying to figure out how to give this type of education in a different and more accessible setting.”



“Attention is being drained out of this generation. It is criminal to “adjust” to cognitive damage which has been created by digital technology (Not by the “kid’s’ culture–because it is not their culture).
Damage has been done. We do not need adjustment. Or bandaids. We need healing–radical healing. Like –how about this–a parents movement to ban all non-work-related digital technology time in the home. And a banning of laptops cell phones and all other contraptions in the schools.”



“Laziness is definitely a big component all along the way. … also think of the arrogance factor. Add to this the distractions and convenience of iphones, texting, electronic games, etc. and here we are.”



“We are dealing with a generation subjected to cognitive damage.”



“Issues of content are secondary. TV is TV. It rots your brain. It engenders passivity and inhibits natural cognitive development. What is the point of good reading choices if kids are incapable of absorbing overarching narrative? If they cannot sense a character’s objective, or have no faculty of inner visual imagination? The last 15 years have wrought immeasurable and geometrically increased crippling effects upon children.”



no turning backWow.




Double wow.


And this is TED for god’s sake where ‘thinkers of the future’ hang out.

I am not picking on these commenters I am simply making a point that there is a boatload of inertia with regard to changing what needs to change because the world has changed.


It made me think of this quote:



“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.” – Henry David Thoreau




At least now I understand why the project global generation idea isn’t catching on … most people don’t want anything like it.



I will use me as an example for why I get frustrated with this thinking.

I love to read.

I am a voracious reader. And I do believe reading is an important factor in the mind’s growth.


But building an education system based on what is good for me is downright insanity.


And that is what it seems like a lot of people want to do.



I would guess I am closer to the “innovative” edge of the thought continuum but it is frightening how many people are firmly on the ‘we need to hold on to what we are doing, or did well a generation ago, because it is necessary in effective learning.”




And this whole attitude of … “and it is the best thing for this generation <to go back to the way it was done in the past>.”




I say let’s bring back the horse & buggy then.

It was effective and insured we had better social skills because <for gods sake> we saw the same people for our entire lifetime <and horses, in general, are calming>.




I really did try to see things from the old ‘bring back things from the past’ perspective.


But I admit.

I still struggle.


I suggested the following to the TED participants to facilitate some discussion <and I actually did listen and wanted to integrate some of their thinking>:


But in the interest of trying to forward thinking let me offer up a thought.

I love the concept of “smaller more personal learning” but we can’t go back to log cabin classrooms (and don’t want to). Why can’t you do it thru technology?  And even better you have the ability to have your “classroom of 12” being across multiple country borders (to hone critical thinking from a local-global perspective)?  

Technology is only as passive as you allow it to be. It can actually be exponentially more active than face to face or a classroom if you permit, and encourage it, to be. For example. I wouldn’t do another in person focus group again unless it was demanded by a client. Why?  I get better reaction and thinking and relaxed visual cues thru the web. It seems like you could do the same in an educational environment. I could even argue that a web based system (with teachers facilitating) evens the game sociologically. Without the in class posturing that takes place in many urban schools … globally children would get measured on their thinking rather than “how they appear to their peers.”

I guess I am suggesting that education, and reading comprehension, is more complex than just comprehension. I have been involved with so much family-kids research my head should explode. All mothers-parents want the best for their kids. Many, who don’t have education of their own, cannot help other than suggest to their children “education is good” and yet the children look around them and they just don’t see all the signs that education has as big a benefit as they hear it does. gg thinker and girlReality is sobering. But none have completely lost hope. How do we develop an education system globally that permits the tides to rise higher?

And, yes, I said globally. Yup. Education isn’t about America. The internet has already made that thought obsolete because education is about knowledge & information … from all perspectives.


I just can’t see how technology and the web can’t play a significant role in global education initiatives.

In the end. Where I struggle with what you guys are discussing is that I feel like we are going backwards instead of seeking the opportunities provided by what is today.



Needless to say … that failed.

From that stimulus the responding participating TED group members <excepting one> invested a lot of selective information … often quite subjective thinking … and a shitload of passionate energy … shoving my thinking back up my … well … you know what.


What did I do <to check my sanity>?

I shared the discussion with some college students I know and while I had maybe 5 of my favorite college students chomping at the bit to step in on this discussion let me defend this generation for them.



–          Being outside.

Technology has absolutely nothing to do with how much time someone is outside and active. The main deterrent to outside activity is actually us (older people). In generations before there was a freedom to play. Now? A combination of the maniacally litigious (closing unattended playgrounds) and oversight managed activities has sociologically changed the entire concept of “play”.

In fact <part 1> it isn’t ‘play’ anymore … it is “organized activity.”

Therefore it is less fun and therefore less inclusive.

We should all note that “being outside” <young people just don’t get away from the computer enough> has bigger issues than technology.


In fact <part 2> I have noted in earlier posts that research clearly shows that young people who are more active in social media and gaming … are more social inter-personally. Uhm. Yeah. I just typed ‘personally’ … that is face to face.



–          Social skills.

I encourage everyone to visit any number of tween driven websites. Kids are being social. And just because they do it “different than we did” doesn’t mean it isn’t good. This generation is more socially aware than our generation was.

By multipliers.

learning white board What_is_LearningThey can see online, and interact with others, that everyone is facing the same esteem-confidence issues they are …and not just in their neighborhood but globally. Could you envision having a circle of friends who you could discuss what was bothering you who spanned 6 different time zones and 3 different cultures and 4 different countries?

They have better social skills at their age then we ever did.


Just different.




–          Writing (reading and whatever).

Except for a select minority every generation has sucked at writing comprehension and critical thinking. And “sucked” is simply indicative of a standard normative dispersion of (a) those that care to know and (b) those with aptitude.


Don’t be fooled by test scores (but that is a bigger debate so I will move on).


If you want this generation to get steamed on this particular topic … go onto any tween/young adult driven site and post your question and concerns. You will have more young people coming out of the woodwork than you will know what to do with.




reading is travelingTheir writing skills are different than ours (but Shakespeare wouldn’t recognize anything I wrote) but it is thoughtful and probably sharper than anything we ever wrote at that age. It is being honed not by classroom instruction but rather by a jury of peers who don’t hesitate to call bullshit the moment they see it.




Moving on.


If you look at how a child’s brain actually works I could argue that the past/current education system is inefficient with regard to how to build that brain. Current teaching systems actually tries to force the young brain to do something it does not naturally do rather than take advantage of how it actually works.


With the internet (or some web based component) it seems like we have an opportunity to match up education to the youth brain.


Text book by rote almost seems archaic in a world where they will be expected to recognize patterns and discern truth within patterns.

In fact … I will remind everyone of that fabulous ‘black box thinking’ model the TopModels thinkers shared with us.


They refer to it as black box thinking or “why faith is replacing knowledge.”


“… our world is getting more complicated all the time. Black and white, good and bad, right and wrong have been replaced with complicated constructs that leave most people in the dark.

As the world around us becomes increasingly fast paced and complex, the amount we REALLY know – what we can really grasp and understands – decreases all the time. Today it is more or less taken for granted that we do not understand many of the things that surround us, such as mobile phones and ipads. And even if somebody tried to explain the DNA code to us, we would probably be out of our depth.

We are increasingly surrounded by ‘black boxes’ … complex constructs that we do not understand even if they are explained to us. We cannot comprehend the inner processes of a black box but nonetheless we integrate their inputs and outputs into our decision making.

The amount that we simply HAVE to believe, without understanding it, is increasing all the time. As a result we are tending to assign more importance to those who can explain something than to their actual explanation.”

<The Decision book: 50 models for strategic thinking – Krogerus & Tschappeler>



I share this thinking because the future appears to be a very different kind of person and mind. And while it may drive us older people crazy … it is what it is. Going backwards is just not an option.


The new world … this younger generation … is a more complex world of thinker creators, pattern recognizers and meaning discerners.



That said … in talking about a technology based education system … the web does not completely replace teachers, guidance and parents. But we should be thinking about developing a system non dependent upon them and consider them a bonus because there are many places globally where there are no teachers, parents are illiterate and guidance is minimal.



“Many children struggle in schools because the way they are being taught is incompatible with the way they learn.” – Peter Senge


The world is changing … and it has changed.


Mobile devices alone are changing our lives.

We are constantly available.


There’s hardly any space and time left where messages can’t get through to us. With high accessibility comes high expectation.

An answer or at least a reaction is expected (share this!, like this!, comment!).


And the permanent checking of in-boxes and voicemails makes everyone feel  …“what’s happening right here and right now isn’t as important as what could be happening elsewhere.“


I say all that because Education needs to speed up and slow down.


A challenge but that is not only a reflection of today’s world but also a teen/tween mind.

That challenge is further complicated by the teach and discovery balance.

Teaching needs to inspire the spark of insight & curiosity … and nurture the slow comfortable campfire of learning and discovery.



“The scandal of education is that every time you teach something you deprive a child of the pleasure and benefit of discovery.”leading young directionSeymour Papart



Self-discovery is a powerful aspect of learning because self-discovery’s engine or spark is curiosity … or some characteristic including ‘pursuit of.’



I digress.

Back to the whole discussion of technology versus ‘going back to the old ways.’


Do I believe it should be unfettered unmanaged self-discovery?



Although the following video is a powerful argument for empowering youth’s self-discovery … unmanaged.







I believe self-discovery should be managed … to encourage a broadening of the discovery.


And I could argue that older people should rediscover discovery … of new ideas and new thinking … and rethink some things that they think they KNOW. Technology is just one thing we seem to be stuck on.


Think about these for example … some folklore neuroscience misconceptions:



brainstorming cognitive–          the “left-brain” is rational, the “right-brain” is creative myth
The hemispheres have different specializations but there is no clear rational-creative split and you need both hemispheres to be successful at either. You can no more do right-brain thinking than you can do rear-brain, or front brain, thinking. The whole brain is used to be creative … as well as rational.



–          video games, TV violence, porn or any other social specter of the moment “rewires the brain” myth
Everything “rewires the brain” as the brain works by making and remaking connections. This is often used in a contradictory fashion to suggest that the brain is both particularly susceptible to change but once changed, can’t change back.



–          we have no control over our brain but we can control our mind myth

The mind and the brain are the same thing described in different ways and they make us who we are. Trying to suggest one causes the other is like saying wetness causes water.


To build the next generation of thinkers we need to discard a boatload of baggage we seem to want to hoard in our mental attics.


I don’t mind discussing these things because … again … I go to my standard belief that this ends up being information that gets thrown into a well-developed decision making mind <and not used to create the decision making mind>.



But how to teach these young minds?


Or maybe it is “how to do the one on one” because we want that hi-touch knowledge growth?


Or maybe <as one TED member suggested> … ideally a class with twelve students?


Maybe it truly is ideally a class of different types–artistic, athletic, scientific, philosophical–integration of physical and creative activities–no distracting digital technologies <I believe some Montessori schools do this now>.


And if so … maybe all I am suggesting is to figure out how this give this type of education in a different and more accessible setting.




I don’t know if you have had an opportunity to be part of online focus group research but there are some great interactive platforms out there that are able to accommodate the lowest denomination of personal technology (meaning you can only have a cellphone and not some high falutin’ laptop). Not only can a moderator-teacher interact with a group (as the group itself interacts) but at the same time (in a separate ‘box’ to track) one can interact one on one.


The technology permits you to conduct a group thought exercise <and knowledge sharing> and yet prompt one on one side dialogue.


It may sound overwhelming to a teacher <but no more overwhelming than herding 25 hormonal tweens I imagine> but moderators become quite adept at the discussion management and they do it in hour+ increments.


I recognize it is different challenge but wanted to answer the question of whether anything even exists today to accommodate technology teaching with smaller groups of people <children>.


Anyway.gg access tech_growth


To me?

Great teachers in today’s world are wasted if we permit them to only work one on one. I am a huge believer in that impacting “one” is like a pebble in a pond – impacting many.



If you could reach out and impact dozens of dozens influencers, kids who influence kids, it seems like a waste to the bigger picture to keep a great teacher in the proverbial coffeehouse doing one on one <albeit you probably get great coffee>.



Technology permits you to impacts entire cultures <which is first attitudes and ultimately behavior)> and a mind numbing amount of developing minds.


In the end all I can really ever do is to remind everyone that almost everything is more complex than simply saying “it was as it appears” meaning that ‘what was done in the past looks a shitload better now through some wacky lens we seem to look through on occasion.’




This generation will be what we make it.




Just a reminder.

And we <our current adult generation> ain’t so special ourselves.

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Written by Bruce