Frederick Hess recently was part of a panel discussion at The Aspen Institute. (Hess' part of the program starts at about 1:12:00.) He begins by stating that many people who talk about improving schools or fixing schools start with the premise that schools and teachers are a given. The stated goal of many is to improve education by fixing schools. That includes, among other things, improving teacher quality, holding people accountable, taking the institution as we have come to know it and making it better.
Hess' continues and suggests that institutions established to address one set of purposes at one point in time may not be equipped to address a new set of purposes in a new time.
Does this describe our schools? Were our schools created for one purpose to address one set of circumstances and now that purpose and those circumstances have changed? Are schools as we know them outdated?
In a world where the students in my schools have access to information at times and in ways that I do not control are schools as they are currently structured appropriate?
There are websites - http://www.wolframalpha.com - that help me solve equations.
There are phone and tablet apps that teach me how to spell - Little Speller First Words (http://www.grasshopperapps.com).
We have online virtual schools for students in grades K-12. Harvard and MIT have collaborated to create online open courses (http://www.extension.harvard.edu/open-learning-initiative).
Schools with teachers in buildings have been around a long time. But perhaps we are at a tipping point. Perhaps those of us invested in schools need to be invested more in ensuring that we create environments where our students will learn.
Maybe schools with teachers that have students arrive by bus at 8:30 AM (or 7:15 AM or 9:00 AM) and sit in desks in classrooms are the past of education and not the future.
The question is can we see the future?