Epistemic games as education for innovation
In his recent bestseller The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman (2005) argues that high-wage industrialized countries can no longer compete in the global economy on the basis of making and selling commodities. Their competitive edge increasingly comes from how well they produce products, services, and technologies that are non-standard, and thus not easily reproduced by competitors. In this paper, we look at the educational implications of this transition in economic conditions. We use the example of the United States to examine how educational systems in industrialized countries are preparing students for commodity jobs in a world that increasingly rewards people who can do innovative work. We argue that educational policies that focus on giving students standardized skills for standardized tests rather than preparation for creative thinking and innovative work will lead to a new equity gap, in which some students have access at home to the technologies they need to prepare for life in a digital world, but many do not. We make the case that the same technologies that are creating this crisis provide a potential solution, and we propose the concept of epistemic games (Shaffer, 2005, 2006) as one way to address these issues.