In The World is Flat, economist Thomas Friedman explains how technology can level the playing field in many industries. His Brief History of the 21st Century was ironically published in the 4th year of that century. The commentary was much more of a “looking forward” than a history, but it does frame the ideas in the context of the historical progress that has come before us. His thesis was simple: technology will act as a “leveler” in the 21st century. Technology allows an even, level, or “flat” playing field for economies across the world. Once individuals have access to the world wide web, they have access to markets all across the globe.
We have seen his vision of the future play out in many different industries. Take renting a hotel room for example. Vendors like VBRO and AirBNB have allowed “hotels” to pop up all over the place and access to these hotels to be controlled in a much different way. Uber and Lyft have done the same thing to the transportation industry.
Classrooms have been flattened too. I’m not sure most educators have realized it, because we don’t see the outcome in the same way. Now that curriculum is accessible, in essence, for free from a computer, any parent who has the time is able to homeschool their student. Additionally, students can take courses from teachers all around the globe. Adaptive learning programs now allow the student to learn at their own pace and will challenge them at their exact level of learning. The “market” that schools had on education has changed, how have classrooms adapted to change with it?