Monday, December 31, 2007

Does Education Use the Internet Advantage As It Should?

As reported in the Washington Post today, The internet is the essential tool required for modern education and an advantage in preparing our present and future talent pool. The full article can be found here: Internet Access Is Only Prerequisite For More and More College Classes

As well, Trevor Macausland has offered an opinion piece on a required shift in how we look at education in New Brunswick as follows:

Is New Brunswick ready to shift towards an education system that accommodates a 21st century economy? That's what columnist Dave Barnett asks in his bi-weekly column in the Times and Transcript, Take creative approach to self-sufficiency. I have to admit that I have been a big proponent about adding another school to the Moncton North riding due to overcrowding. Many co-workers and neighbors share their concern about their child's learning environment due because Evergreen was not built to support to level of growth this area has seen in the last 5 years. You could say this is a very close issue for me since I live a stone throw away from Evergreen school and have supported MLA John Betts in his pursuit to have a new school built in the community. For the record, I do believe a new school is still needed in this region.

However, Mr. Barnett's piece has made me re-evaluate the way I see the issue. Many of my neighbors are families that both spouses work in the knowledge sector. Primarily customer contact centers and ICT organizations. I think there is validity in what Dave is saying about transforming our education system to better leverage the infrastructure we have to support the 24/7 digital economy. And as Dave explains in his piece I think the idea makes "Cents".

While I will say that I still support the decision to build another school in the riding to support current crowding and future growth, I would like to hear more from our government, parents and education professionals on the potential to have an education system that supports the 21 st century family.

I admit that I am not an expert in education and I am sure that I will be crucified for suggesting that such an "out-of-the-box" idea should be explored, but do we not owe it to our children and grand-children to create a system that prepares them for the future? Not to mention, free up capital to invest in better educational tools and training for our teachers? I would be interested in hearing on what people think of the idea. I ask you to "think" about your response and provide a feasible explanation as to why you believe this will or will not work.

Before you click on the comment section to add your $0.02 consider this piece from Nine Shift Chapter 14 on Education in the 21st century:
"But clearly education will be modeled after the primary work sector in the 21 st century, just as in previous economic ages where education was modeled after the primary work sector. For this century education in advanced societies will by necessity need to prepare youth for knowledge work, and thus education will be formatted to resemble the knowledge work setting for which it is preparing its student…Buildings are the albatross, the burden, the biggest threat to educational institutions in the 21 st century. The mandate is clear: stop building buildings." (p. 249-252).
"We cannot solve problems with the same thinking that generated the problems" - Albert Einstein

Monday, December 24, 2007

Make it happen or watch it happen?

Some make it happen and some watch it happen. The conservative-minded have always waited for someone else to prove something to be good. While the bold and visionary have made the case for change based on a willingness to imagine. All of us want good things for everyone and with a major shift upon us whether we want it or not, developing a vision that fits the shift and benefits as many of us as possible is necessary if we are not to be left behind.

Bouctouche gets free wireless Internet - Bouctouche has become the first small municipality in the province to offer free wireless Internet access in its downtown core. (Mon 24 Dec 2007, Telegraph-Journal)

Do you have more examples? Send them in.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Quality of Life Paramount

As location is removed as a determinant for good employment in the internet age, people are expected to migrate to areas with a high quality of life and suitable to their individual tastes. This mass migration and competition for talent based on living standards and community appeal is happening everywhere and is revealing interesting stories and patterns that are contrary to what 20th century thinkers would expect.

Different cities, different immigrants - A local networking group for young, active, civic-minded residents makes a strong case for the unexpected growth and attractiveness of a historically depressed city. "Can uptown Saint John compete with cities such as Toronto and Vancouver for increased immigration? It depends on the quality of life immigrants are looking for." Read full article

Is New Brunswick Ready for the Shift?

For years provincial and municipal governments have invested millions of dollars to maintain an industrial age economy based on natural resources like timber. Through these investments, our province has seen its rural regions especially the northern areas face an exodus of workers to southern cities and western provinces. Because we have decided to place greater emphasis on maintaining the norm, our provincial landscape is shifting. It is inevitable that our province needs to address key issues or New Brunswick faces certain extinction in the 21st century economy and national stage.

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham has gone on record
to suggest that workers in communities reeling from the closure of mills will likely have to leave their homes to pursue employment opportunities. While honesty is appreciated, we asked ourselves three questions related to the article:

1. How did we get here?
2. What have we learned?
3. Where are we headed?

How did
we get here?
It is easy to criticize, condemn and complain about the challenges our province faces, but it is important to show leadership and acknowledge that decisions we have made in the direction of our province have led us to economic collapse in Northern NB. Our continued investment in outdated and inefficient manufacturing facilities, transportation, illiteracy and an education model that supports dying sectors has us heading in a dangerous territory.

What have we learned?
You might not know it but you are seeing a clash between the transformation from the industrial age society to the Internet age community. This clash is not unique to New Brunswick. Many of our traditional manufacturing sector jobs are being moved to other regions of the globe because we are no longer as competitive as other regions of the planet in regards to manual labor. This "problem" is caused by innovative technologies and efficient exporting which makes offshoring a more feasible option. While we might be reluctant to let go of our proud past, we need to accept that the world is in the midst of a shift in which New Brunswick can write a new chapter in its history. What you are witnessing is not a problem, but an opportunity to move New Brunswick forward!

Where are we headed?
The Premier raises an interesting point in relation to transit. His suggestion that workers might have to relocate for employment has led me to question if we are investing in the right kind of infrastructure? Instead of investment into more roads, which are a burden on the taxpayer in relation to construction, maintenance and the environment, why are we not investing in smart transportation and telecommuting as an alternative through building a knowledge enabled workforce?

Roads are a popular topic with the electorate, but if we were to invest the millions we put into expansion and maintenance of our highways and put that same investment into a light rail system, then workers from across this province could easily commute between work and home more easily like they do in Europe. Imagine workers from Miramichi being able to live there, but take the 7:30 AM train to Saint John to be at work by 8:30 AM then leave at 5PM to make it home by supper. While more inconvenient then our current circumstance, this option would help communities across this province thrive while also increasing the labor pool for larger economic centers and vice-versa. I would go even further and suggest that we built a rail system which links Atlantic Canada to the New England states, much like the London to Paris train. This would increase the fluidity of trade between our nations and give us access to a large workforce which is needed to prevent this area of the world to become the next 3rd world state.

The only question that I have not been able to answer is whether the people of New Brunswick are ready to shift towards the Internet age or do we have to reach rock bottom first?

Submitted by Trevor Macausland

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Industrial Age Conformity or Creative Age Creativity?

The following article outlines the establishment vision of planning urban development to mimic industrial age cities and the common themes they share:

Think big, build big - Majority of council agrees residential high-rises should be part of the city centre's future

The image above also shows the skyline of London, UK, which is famous for its historic efforts to limit high rise development and compromise the architectural integrity of its historic building stock, even after much of it was destroyed in World War II.

The ideas in the above article are contrasted with another emerging point of view presented in the opinion piece below by Ron Roy that presents a challenge to be creative with the city's blueprint in Saint John, NB:
I read with great concern the article in this morning's TJ [Telegraph-Journal]. If there is a city in North America that has managed to attract residents to their uptown core by simply erecting a high-rise, I am unaware of it – this is a misguided attempt at progress that will not survive the test of time.

The approach is depicted in neither Smart Growth nor New Urbanism and it is potentially unsustainable.

Today, the situation in Saint John is that many second floors remain empty. The uptown currently boasts a great collection of new parking lots. Comments made by several councillors and Mr. Baird harken back to the urban redevelopment schemes of the 1950s and 60s in Saint John – an era that hardly delivered on its shiny new promises yet resulted in mass clearings and social disintegration of Saint John's urban fabric.

Good, informed planning is essential during this time of pending growth – a well-educated council could do wonders, unfortunately many ideas from these urban novices are misguided as a desperate attempt at 'growth at all costs' permeates decisions made. What I would give to hear someone, anyone!, articulate ideas that truly mirror New Urbanism concepts or the Smart Cities movement.