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Professional Opinion

Did You Know?

Are the schools we have the school we need?

There is a video floating around cyberspace these days titled Did You Know? It’s four minutes and 40 seconds of telecosmic factoids and “what it means” conjectures, rolled out in a techno-rock presentation. You can see it on YouTube at (If you’re not sure how to do that, your school system definitely needs you to watch it.) Here are a few excerpts mixed with my comments to inspire your “futurethink.”

Do You Text?

The first commercial text message was sent in December 1992. Today, the number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the total population of the planet. Do you text? If not, you need to try it. It’s the preferred method of communication among students—by far. Talking on their mobile phones comes in a distant second, and e-mail is barely on their radar. If you want to “connect” with students through e-mail, forget about it—it’s time to text.

We Met Online

Have you been to a wedding where the couple being married met online? If you haven’t, the chances are increasing that you will. One out of eight couples married in the U.S. last year [2007] met online. That’s where young people spend more and more of their time, whether it’s to network or do research. There are more than 200 million registered users of MySpace. If MySpace were a country it would be fifth largest in the world between Indonesia and Brazil. It took Radio 38 years to reach one million users, TV reached one million viewers in 13 years, once commercialized the Internet hit one million users in four years, and Facebook—the ever more popular competitor to MySpace—reached one million registered users in just two years! Should I ask how online social networks are being used to support your district’s mission? I’m not sure you could or should have an answer already in place, but we certainly should be asking the question.

Global Pressure

China will soon become the number one English-speaking country in the world. And get this: 25 percent of India’s population with the highest IQs is greater than the total population of the U.S. Translation: India has more “honors” kids than America has kids.

How does your district search the Web?

In the past five minutes 67 babies were born in the U.S., 274 babies were born in China, and 395 babies were born in India.

The number one ranked country in broadband penetration is Bermuda. The United States is ranked number 19 and Japan is number 22.

Drowning in Data

We are living in exponential times. There are 31 billion searches on Google every month. In 2006 it was 2.7 billion per month, almost a twelvefold increase in just two years. How does your district search the Web?

But it’s more than Google and other Web search tools. There are about 540,000 words in the English language, about five times as many as during Shakespeare’s time. It is estimated that four exabytes (i.e., 4 x 1019) of unique information will be generated this year. The total storage capacity of all hard drives sold in just the last ten years exceeds 50,000 exabytes. Each exabyte is a billion gigabytes, and according to a recent study at the University of California at Berkeley, just five exabytes is enough to store all the words ever spoken since the beginning of time.

But that’s not all. NTT Japan has successfully tested a fiber optic cable that pushes 14 trillion bits per second down a single strand of fiber. That’s 2,660 CDs or 210 million phone calls every second. Can a textbook really contain a class curriculum?

Probably not. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.

As we begin another New Year, it’s time for renewed urgency to provide the leadership needed to transform the schools we have into the schools our students and their families need.

Daniel E. Kinnaman is publisher of District Administration.