I just finished reading Steve Job’s biography by Walter Isaacson. Apart from renewed amazement and awe for his prolific creativity, vision and ruthless pursuit of perfection, I came away with a heavy sadness. He’s gone. Who is going to trigger the next tectonic shift in how our culture interacts with technology? Has that person been born yet?
Jobs revolutionized personal interactions for the millions of iPhone users (Aug 2012 Washington Post estimated 85 million since 2007) and the millions of other smartphone users they interact with. Jobs re-invented the way we entertain ourselves with music. Think iTunes, iPods. “Think Different”. That’s what he prompted us to do.
He had set his sites on education. That was the next targeted frontier to conquer. I remember seeing a magazine cover several years ago with a picture of a early 20th century classroom. The caption was something along the lines of “Not much has changed in 100 years”. My parents and grandparents were essentially taught in similar-looking rooms with similar techniques. There are desks arranged facing a teacher, there is a board at the front of the room for writing lessons and instructions. The students sit and listen during the school lessons, then go home and do homework. I’m brushing over many incremental modernizations. There are many, of course. The introduction of multi-media, online homework, team projects, to name a few, but the many similarities are fundamental and run deep. The school of today is a place that my grandmother, a teacher and principal in the 40s, 50s and 60s, would recognize. That is quite remarkable when so many other arenas of our lives would seem like Star Treck or Jetsons manifestations to her.
Jobs understood this. I believe he had a vision for a tectonic shift in how we educate the next generation. We have been denied the force of nature he might have brought to bear in this area of the world. My hope is that the seeds he planted and the vision he shared will grow in spite of his absence.