Visions for the Future

Do we need brick and mortar schools in the 21st Century?

In the Upstate of South Carolina there has been a flurry of building big, beautiful, state-of-the-art high schools. In Pickens County, home of Clemson University, there are four new high schools, and in neighboring Oconee County, three high schools have been upgraded with large additions, and a brand new $50 million Walhalla High School is to be constructed beginning summer 2012, just outside of the county seat of Walhalla on Scenic Highway 11.
The monies come from our sales, income and business taxes and yet individual citizens have control over building and maintenance only through their election of School Board officials. The responsibility of the state to provide school buildings is not defined by law, but for many years state government has provided some aid for construction, renovation, and maintenance of school facilities.
The question:
Is there a need for these glorified learning spaces for high school students to be built at the citizens' expense, or are there alternatives that provide better learning opportunities and a better return on investment in education?

Our Changing World

Who are we?
7 Billion: Are You Typical? -- National Geographic Magazine (Mar. 2, 2011)
How has technology impacted our world?
Did you know 2011 (July 25, 2011)
The Workforce is Changing rapidly - How Will You Manage? (Aug. 12, 2010)
Is our world better than before? – A resounding… YES from Hans Rosling!
Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four

Purpose of Education/ Schooling

From articles and discussion in class, purposes of education include, but are not limited to:
  1. Develop sound mental and physical health
  2. Think logically
  3. Express oneself clearly
  4. Develop aesthetically
  5. Know the world around us – scientifically, culturally
  6. Know how to use leisure time
  7. Learn to cooperate with others
  8. Prepare for the future – jobs/ careers, personal identity
  9. Develop skills for civic engagement
  10. Acquire baseline skills and content standards (reading, writing, arithmetic, technology etc)
  11. Provide a safe, shared learning space for children and adults to work and learn together
This list is dynamic and incomplete. It will vary according to age of the student, location, time (i.e. 2010 vs. 2020), and external world/ local conditions.
Interesting comparison:
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Morehouse College Student Paper, The Maroon Tiger, 1947.
1. Utility 2. Culture
Sir Ken Robinson, Purpose of Education, Mar. 2, 2011
1. Personal 2. Cultural 3. Economic
It is interesting that for both Dr. King in 1947, and Sir Robinson in 2011, economics and cultural/ personal identity were identified as purposes of education. As Robinson points out in his RSAnimate, Changing Educational Paradigms, it is time to look at other purposes of education.

Education in the 21st Century

What should education look like in the 21st century?
Historic purposes of education will not disappear (see list in Purposes of Schooling), but will feature additions, some not even yet identified. In a fast-paced, interconnected world, crowded with more people competing for scarce resources, cooperation and innovation will have to dominate our political, economic, cultural, and social worlds. Human capital and civic engagement will make the world go ‘round in the 21st Century!
We know that all learners/ students will need to be digitally connected, or our digital divide will keep more than one billion people of the world in dire straits. We don’t want a world of those who have and can use technology, and those who do not have access. For success for all, we need a level playing field for students through quality online learning with access to world-class education.
To effectively engage the cognitive surplus, our students need to:
  1. know how to deal and cope with complexity, i.e. be problem-solvers
  2. be resilient and adaptable
  3. be creative, innovative, able to think divergently
  4. interpret, rather than memorize
  5. be independent, lifelong learners
i-Generation Blog. The future of education: Memorize or analyse? Apr. 3, 2012
How will you teach me in the 21st century? (May 31, 2010)
Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner | MacArthur Foundation (Dec. 1, 2010)
RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms (Apr. 14, 2010)
Nature and Purpose of Distance Education
Clay Shirky - Internet Writings on Effects of Internet on Society
What are some alternatives to a brick and mortar school building?
Distance education, charter cyber schools, virtual education, open and online schools are just some of the names of alternative delivery systems.
Examples, research and evaluation of E-learning:
Dr. Michael K. Barbour has an excellent youtube channel and website with many examples of E-learning or virtual high school systems from around North America.
Michael Barbour’s Youtube Channel and Website
Models of K-12 Online Learning: The Canadian Experience, Michael Barbour, 2008
South Carolina Virtual School Program
Florida Virtual School
IDEAL-NM: A Whole New World of Learning (Aug. 12, 2008) Innovative Digital Education and Learning in New Mexico
TMZ - Stanford University Online High School (Dec. 30, 2011)
Good report about virtual high schools and innovation:Tucker, Bill. June 2007. Laboratories of Reform:Virtual High Schools and Innovation in Public Education
This Virtual School Clearinghouse website has research, data, websites, presentations, and resources/ journals.
This association provides advocacy, research, professional development and networking.International Association for K-12 Learning
Advantages of E-learning?
To stay globally competitive, students must expand their horizons beyond the possibilities offered in many high schools, especially in rural or remote locations, i.e. advanced maths and sciences, languages other than one second language, business and technology. Virtual classrooms of e-learners provide more choices than any local high school would be able to support, and allows students to graduate early, or to gain more personalized step-by-step instruction with engaging online communities. Some of the advantages for learning:
  1. Any place
  2. Any pace
  3. Any time
  4. Any language
  5. More choice, i.e. any subject – particularly important in small, rural districts
  6. No local experts/ teachers needed
  7. Lower cost (fewer local teachers, buildings and maintenance) – more value for the investment
  8. More interaction / collaboration – student-teacher; student-student; teacher-teacher, i.e. community of collaborative learners
Advantages of e-Learning(Nov. 1, 2010)
How do educators provide effective E-learning opportunities?
Good places to start include International Association for K-12 Learning ( and Virtual School Clearinghouse (
Best Practices in Online Education (Oct. 7, 2008)
E-learning: How to deliver an engaging Virtual Classroom presentation (Feb. 2, 2010)


There is a big, crowded, changing world out there, and the best way to prepare our students for the future is to expand their horizons, personalize their education so it suits their needs, and extend the school day, year, and career. Everything, everywhere is changing every minute, and to interpret and contribute to new discoveries, changing world events, and innovation, lifelong learning is essential. Transforming education, so that educators are preparing students to be active, collaborative learners in the digital world, is the best thing we can do for our students, and for all of us in the global village. Online E-learning should be an integral alternative of education delivery systems in our changing world.