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eLearn Magazine asks what you would tell President Obama if you were the new Secretary of Education
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
My friend, Lisa Neal from eLearn Magazine sent a few of us the email below.

On Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 2:10 PM, Lisa Neal Gualtieri wrote:

Hi ...

I went to a well-attended event in Boston last week on Transforming Healthcare with an illustrious panel who completely blew the most interesting question they were asked: If you were the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, what is the first thing you would say to President Obama. A lot of the focus of the session was on the economic stimulus package.

I instead will ask you: If you are the new Secretary of Education, what is the first thing you would tell President Obama?

I will post your responses in the eLearn blog.

I hope to hear back from you today if possible.



Lisa Neal Gualtieri, Ph.D.

Adjunct Clinical Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Blog on health:

Editor-in-Chief, eLearn Magazine,
Blog on education:

Here is my response:

Mr. President:

I have not heard back from you on the letter I sent you back on December 1st about the world becoming more open for learning and to see if you wanted to read a preview copy of my book, “The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education.” It is ok, I know you are busy with this economic crisis. I can dust off my CPA license if you need help there but I prefer not to.

I actually believe you can skip those boring meetings with economic advisors. Instead, take a look at the educational possibilities of the Web. As you know from your Blackberry days (which I guess you still have), the Web is transforming education in front of our eyes. When I saw you give your speech here in Bloomington last April 30th, I felt a sense that you realized this and so I voted for you instead of Hillary. Now that you have won, you need people in the Department of Education who can help you (and me) make sense of this transformation. I think that there are ten trends that are of particular importance. They spell the acronym, WE-ALL-LEARN. I list them for you below.

Ten Openers: (WE-ALL-LEARN)

Web Searching in the World of e-Books
E-Learning and Blended Learning
Availability of Open Source and Free Software
Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
Learning Object Repositories and Portals
Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
Electronic Collaboration
Alternate Reality Learning
Real-Time Mobility and Portability
Networks of Personalized Learning

If any one of these trends would have happened in the past, it would have been a dramatic change in education. In fact, if just one person had learned online in 1959 (50 years ago), that person would have been Time’s person of the year. And that is just one trend or opener (opener #2)! But all ten openers are happening simultaneously. Instead of the new players, playing fields, and management processes that Thomas Friedman discusses in his World is Flat book, in education we have a different set of “p’s”—piping, pages of content, and a participatory learning culture. This is a triple convergence that any of the previous 43 presidents would have loved to see happening in such an economic crisis. Again, I am happy to send you my book if you want to read it.

So instead of more back to the basics and adding still more test scores and assessments, we have to open doors to learning and make that the focus. Active and contributory learning where learners are active in their own learning pursuits should underlie all educational reform efforts, not comparisons to other countries, previous test scores, or some other set of silly statistics. In contrast to smaller countries or those with fewer natural resources which are forced to standardize everything, in the United States we need an educational system that fosters learning that you cannot plan for or preprescribe. Simply put, we need to focus on creativity, innovation, ambition, and perpetual learning and human development. We need motivated younger as well as older learners. To attain such goals, we need educational leaders who ignite a passion for learning. And for those in Asia and other countries who are bored with traditional teach and test educational methods all-too-common in such places, we can open our doors. As Thomas Friedman called for two weeks ago in the NY Times, allow millions more smart people from China, Korea, India, and other countries to immigrating to the USA and build the next Google’s, Livemocha’s, and Yahoo!’s. If we can combine more creative people coming to the country with an educational system focused on nurturing creative talent, watch out world, we will be the ones solving the world’s problems! Is no doubt!

The time is ripe for so many things. Education can lead us out of this economic crisis. For the first time in the history of this country, our education leaders are simultaneously our economic leaders, not the other way around. As the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade suggested, “choose wisely .” If you do, then WE-ALL-LEARN. I wish you well. And I also wish that we, in fact, do all learn.


Oh by the way, my "The World is Open" book is now in Amazon now for preordering!

The book will be out in July and in bookstores in August. Write to me if you want a book synopsis or additional information.

Ok, what if you were the new Secretary of Health and Human Services? What would you tell President Obama?
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 11:21 PM  
  • At 4:55 AM, Blogger MW (My Wish) said…

    Well written in a down to earth style. Although I don't think a letter can actually get to him. How do we get our voices out to the top administration? I actually wrote to G.W. Bush and C. Rice many years ago. I got a response back from the White House, a courtesy note to acknowledge the receipt of the letter. Never heard back from Dr. Rice's office. Oh, well..

  • At 7:37 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Well, I did get a response from the administrative assistants for Al Gore as well as Bill Clinton and I plan to send each of them a signed book when it comes out. I saved their addresses. Michael Dell's assistant also wrote back and said he would love a signed copy. Perhaps Obama will see it in the airport someday. Smile.

    Glad you think it was ok letter. I actually sent Obama a different letter back in December. I have not heard back. Yet...

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

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