Will Richardson recently posted that he’d revisted Thomas L. Friedman’s The World Is Flat in doing research for a book of his own. Once again it got me thinking about the main metaphor of TWIF after having read the many reviews from the idiotic and purposely obtuse to the obvious fans discussing the topic.
Friedman’s flat world metaphor, despite the cover art, is really in reference to the leveling of the economic playing field between developing countries and the the developed world. Critics have fretted over the choice suggesting it implies a distancing more than the equalizing that Friedman was implying. But Will’s focus was directed at a particular section titled “From Command and Control to Collaborate and Connect” which he tweaked a bit (in italics) to apply it to the concept of education instead of economics:
This is what happens when you move from a vertical (command and control) educational system to a much more horizontal (connect and collaborate) flat educational system. Your student can do his and your job…Students, if they are inclined, can collaborate more directly with more of their peers than ever before no matter who they are or where they are in the world…But teachers will also have to work much harder to be better informed than their students. There are a lot more conversations between students and teachers today that start like this: “I know that already! I Googled it myself. Now what do I do about it? (212)”
I agree with the overall concept – but the metaphor just isn’t working for me still.
Friedman is saying the world is interconnected and collaborative due to technology. And Will is saying that education is going in the same direction. Education is interconnected and collaborative – so much so that students and teachers are becoming co-participants in the system rather than leader-follower. It isn’t neat and tidy and a shape easy to define yet. “Flat” just doesn’t illustrate it for me.
The world is a tangled extension cord and it’s plugged in. A middle school in China is two nanoseconds from a middle school in Kansas. Just over the loop, under the knot, and around the twist. Yep, this metaphor captures it for me.
What do you think?