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Book Review Excerpt

Below is a short excerpt from my review of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat (upcoming second edition of Coming of Age: The New World Wide Web). I chose what I thought was most relevant to educators:

The book certainly has generated a fair amount of controversy and criticism. Some have thought that he [Friedman] overstates his case; indeed, Sonny, my student, found it hard to see the dramatic changes at his local level and was frustrated by that. One of my colleagues who teaches in the public school system told me that these ideas couldn’t be easily applied in the Québec education system and that there are too many variables and barriers controlled by institutions who do not wish their leadership to be questioned. I wonder how many other teachers think similarly about their educational system.

However, in my reading of the thoughts of international educators, they certainly seemed the most emphatic in their agreement of Friedman’s ideas. They had witnessed different cultures and societies and their willingness to learn and how technology had facilitated that. They had witnessed the flattening.

No, the world is not yet completely flat, not by a long way yet. Last August, when I asked my friend, Reuven, in Israel, about when he realized the world was flat, he said it was a difficult concept to comprehend when missiles were being directed and launched at him. Hard to argue with that. Friedman’s perspective on the various examples of flattened and unflattened countries in the Middle East greatly helped my own understanding of some of the hatred and violence in that part of the world....

I asked myself the question posed by Friedman throughout the book, “where were you when you realized the world was flat?” It was probably in the spring of 2004, a little earlier than most, I suppose, when I successfully managed to have two other sets of students, one in Michigan and one in Israel, provide a real-time webcam exchange at the same time with my own students in Montréal. We were all working as a team to create a website for a web design contest. It was an exciting moment for my students to see the faces of those students and exchange greetings with their teammates. We went on to win the grand prize in the competition. I never knew how much of an impact it made on my students until it received quite an honourable mention in the valedictorian speech at a student’s graduation.