Like him or not, I have to say that I’ve been getting a bit of an education from Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, and I’m finding more and more connections between the global leveling he describes and the classroom. At one point he writes about how in this new world, it’s not just the little guy (i.e. bloggers) who can suddenly start to act big, it’s also the big guys who can start to act small in the sense that they “are enabled to do many more things on their own.” He gives the example of Colin Powell who no longer needs surrogates to do his research for him; he just uses Google. And then he writes this:

This is what happens when you move from a vertical (command and control) world to a much more horizontal (connect and collaborate) flat world. Your boss can do his job and your job.

Now that’s a great description of these changes in and of itself, but think of that in an education sense. Read it like this:

This is what happens when you move from a vertical (command and control) classroom to a much more horizontal (connect and collaborate) flat classroom. Your student can do his job and your job.

We edubloggers talk and write about this a lot, this idea that the tools of the Read/Write Web necessarily change the relationships and construction of the classroom. When audience moves from one teacher to many readers, when assessment moves measuring correctness to measuring usefulness, when we ask for long lasting contribution of ideas instead of short-lived answers to narrow questions, it requires us to rethink our roles as teachers and to redefine our curricula. Remember, we don’t own the content any longer. Our students teach us the tools. They are already connecting and collaborating. To hold on to the vertical classroom is to risk irrelevance…soon.

This is what Barbara writes so eloquently about, the struggle to redefine what it is we’re doing here, of letting go of the traditional notions of teaching and learning. And it’s what Terry refers to in his incredibly incisive comment here a couple of days ago:

“Classroom” implies an enclosure, a bottle of sorts, a boundary that encloses. What happens when technology breaks the bottle? You have a blogwikiflickrfurlicious open space full of connections. Edblogging 3.0 is the birth of new metaphors for new experience. I oversimplify, but I think we edbloggers hold both metaphors (classroom and connected-open space) in our hearts simultaneously. We live in both worlds, yet we know one of them is a dead man walking.

Command and control is “dead man walking.” It will not survive in a world that is no longer built on command and control relationships. And our students will not be prepared for their futures if we continue to hold on to it.