Episode 24

'Flat World' Book Report

Duration 00:16:47      Recorded on June 06, 2007

In this show, Susan and Dan review the Thomas Friedman book The World is Flat, discuss how it relates to education and online learning, and invite listener feedback.

Show Notes:

Susan and Dan finally read The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman and thought they should review it. Yes, the book is 2 years old. The book created a real buzz and continues to be featured in good teachers' work. Check out the collaborative project organized by teachers Vickie Davis and Julie Lindsay. (After the fact, we understand they're moving even wider this year and involving more schools!)

In many more than 3 sentences, Dan gives the basic layout of the book. Three parts: history, what it means for education and the attitude the US should adopt in trying to relate to the rest of the world.

Susan focused on the middle part of the book and the theme of what this means for education. Dan was equally alarmed at the information regarding math, science and research.

Susan also found the three kinds of future successful people interesting: 1) those who are exceptional, 2) those who are anchored and need to be present and in person to do their jobs. Susan wonders what that means for future teachers if anything that can be digitized will be, and could be done by someone elsewhere for less money and possibly better. You can't be mediocre and survive.

The new middle, those who will survive, must be adaptable, capable of learning new things and collaborative. People who can explain things will be valued as will leveragers, those who can make themselves indispensable.

What does all this mean for tomorrow's teachers? Find ways to teach using the flatteners (digital pieces or tools).

How about the deficit in science and math achievements in US school children? Dan talks about a school where he used to work and how well it did in removing barriers to student learning by making it possible for students to explore their passions. Mentoring was a big piece of that.

Susan points out that while Friedman did include parents as part of the solution, his view was very middle class American culturally and may not be widely supported.

How does this relate to online learning? If anything that can be digitized will be, who might teach my class in the future? Dan might be inspired to try new strategies and collaborate, but Susan thinks many faculty will feel threatened.

Are we creating an environment of a hopeful future? That's the end of the book. Dan was able to put this into his work context.

Despite a feeling of dread in the center of the book, Susan saw this book as underscoring the need to explain to today's college students the relevancy of the skills you may be trying to develop in them, as well as the need for them to be excellent (mediocrity won't work).

In the future, Dan and Susan hope to bring a couple additional voices into this discussion.

About Us

The LT Green Room is a podcast for Renewal, Retooling and Conversations about Learning. It is co-hosted by Susan Manning and Dan Balzer and its show topics are often drawn from members of LearningTimes.org, a free online community of education and training professionals from across the globe. The LT Green Room gives listeners (and ourselves) an opportunity to reflect on what they're doing behind the scene that results in an effective learning experience.


Co-Host & Producer
Susan Manning
Co-Host & Producer
Dan Balzer
Executive Producer
Carl Heine
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