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In a dramatically short space of time we have totally transformed our world, or if we
don’t have ownership of it, our world has been transformed for us. This change has
moved us into a new era where all manner of interaction and communication, from
the global to the individual, has been impacted. Consequently, many elements of our
manner of operating in the world, whether in business, among friends, or in education
have become outmoded. Indeed, our world has moved from the industrial era into the
knowledge era and as educators of our present and future generations, we too must
adapt in ways that meet the transformation of our times. As Elliott Eisner (2004) suggests,
we must adapt in ways that make our schooling relevant to young people today
because this will be the best means to prepare them for the future.
Let’s review the macro elements of our world that have changed to give rise
to the knowledge era.
• Perhaps the most global and pervasive change has been the advent of the Internet,
with the most transparent changes being the way people communicate personally
and in business, the pace with which information is transferred, and the
exponential increase in our access to information.
• Rapid advances in information and communication technology mean we do
business in a ‘global economy’ and the media now report on the ‘global community’
in which we live.
• The Australian labour market is changing, with a reduction in industrial era jobs
and the growth of knowledge era jobs. • The workplace is becoming more fluid, with the workforce required to be
more autonomous and proactive in creating and responding to employment
At the individual level these changes affect each of us differently, depending
on our age.
But differences aside, we are all subject to the transformative effects of this
new world. Just five years ago, 15 per cent of homes had Internet access. In 2005,
the number of Australian homes with a young person under 15 years with Internet
access has grown to 63 per cent. In growing numbers, adults and young people have
mobile phones to communicate with others whenever and wherever they choose. We
can talk, text, email and send photos by phone. Soon mobile phones will be able to
do even more. Most of us have access to information at any time via the Web and
increasingly through the use of handheld devices that can do all of the above.
When we narrow the focus to our young people in schools, we see a sophisticated
group who are using any and all available methods to communicate and
relate to one another, to acquire knowledge or access information. This is a far cry
from the relatively few sources of information baby boomers (people born between
1946 and 1964) had available at the same age. Encyclopaedia sales staff still had
a market in the 1990s—today they’re selling mobile phones! The digital divide is
less pronounced and, for young people, rarely an issue in terms of their access to
information, new skills and challenging attitudes.
This book is written for parents and teachers wanting to better understand
the world in which they are raising and educating their children and students respectively,
and also wanting to ensure that schooling is in accord with the new world.
Our young people, whether in the classroom or in groups, have a different
culture from the one that existed when older Australians were at school. This individual
student and cultural difference is part of the knowledge era transformation
and requires careful and systematic change from educators in order that we remain
relevant and inspirational to our young people of the future.
My aim is to provide a well-considered perspective from which we can indicate
how schooling can better serve our young people and their future. As a natural extension
to this objective, this book also indicates the role schooling in Australia can play
in creating a more competitive and appropriately skilled nation