Friday, February 09, 2007

Changing the world or OUR world?

I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand on a grade 8 four-night trip this week. Just got back and am a little bleary eyed. Chaperoning is tiring work. Also didn't touch a computer in that time which was both refreshing and worrisome.

Anyway, as I biked and hiked around the rural areas, I was struck, as I always am, with the understanding that the Internet and Web 2.0 and all of these other technologies that we talk about so much aren't in everyone's world. It's our world that they influence, but there are a whole lot of people for whom day to day existence and agriculture sustenance are realities. Blogs, wikis and podcasts are not. They are not less happy for it. In fact, some of the happiest people I've met in my life have been in Nepal. People for whom we would describe have nothing, but they would say that have everything they need. Would they like to be wealthier? I am sure that they would, but they don't need it to be happier.

I always liked going to Nepal.

Anyway, thinking about the massive population that does NOT have access, inevitably takes me to wondering about our focus on changing education for a 21st century learner. What about the world's learners who are still mid-20th century at best? We are just widening this gap. But then I am reminded that our world is shaped, not by those farmers and those "without", but rather by those "with". And so, I am encouraged by what we do and our efforts to prepare worldly-wise, critical thinkers who won't just learn the technology and the thinking that we teach them...they will bend it to their will.

And if that widens the gap, then perhaps these same children will be able to figure out a way to preserve (not destroy) and celebrate that world in which "those without" live - something we have not been able to do.

Upon returning from the trip, I got back to my netvibes to find this article among the many I had to catch up on. It reminded me of my "hiking thoughts" and so I've included it here. It reminds me how lucky, by simple fluke of birth, I have been to live without such massive oppression.

Despite a Ban, Chinese Youth Navigate to Internet Cafes - "For those unable to afford their own computers -- the vast majority here -- going online in a clandestine dive has become the only option; the local Communist Party leader banned Internet cafes nine months ago as a bad influence on minors.

'If they dare to reopen, we might launch another campaign to shut them all down again,' proclaimed Zhang Guobiao, party secretary for the surrounding Fangshan County."



Justin Medved said...


Well put!

I think your observations around "those without" highlights the important responsibility that we have as educators to instill in our students the responsibility that comes with privilege and being a part of the small community of "haves" in this world.

The technology gap may widen but if we can help create a new generation of socially conscious and globally minded students then it will go much farther than access to information and computers ever could.

Chad said...

‘….with the understanding that the Internet and Web 2.0 and all of these other technologies that we talk about so much aren't in everyone's world.’

Maybe this is a good thing?

Presents a dilemma that I really can’t get my head around. Globalization is watering down of the world’s cultural diversity. I see it here in KL, at home in Australia, and I know if our children visit Chiang Mai in say 20 years, they will see little of the unique culture that is Chiang Mai today.

So a dilemma, personally I’d like to see a world richly diverse in culture….yet I don’t want it to be me that must compromise. Elitist…very, and probably the cause of many of the world’s problems today. There you go Harter, you’re well on the way to hosting a ‘hate’ site!

A Mercer said...

Now, I must sound like a complete ignoramous, it was unschooling that it reminded me of when I first heard it (form of homeschooling -- don't ask).