Yesterday, i flew up to Skywalker Ranch to meet with a bunch of people who think about/work on issues around education. It was held there because it included folks from the George Lucas Educational Foundation (and was put on by the Institute for the Future and the KnowledgeWorks Foundation). OMG… drool. That place is just ridiculously gorgeous! There were gardens and a lake and vineyards and all things pretty northern California. PLUS there were original life sabers and other movie memorabilia. Mega drool.
On top of being in an idyllic setting, the meeting was quite engaging. It was very school-focused and a small group of us came to the realization that schools need to start serving the tension between ego-centered, personalized, individualistic society and globalized society. There used to be scales – people would be part of local communities, broader communities, nation-states, etc. Networked society is altering the relationships between people and communities are suffering because of the lack of cohesion, social norms, etc. When we think about education (especially when we talk about its role in relation to civic life), we need to stop damning technology and start engaging with the shifts that have occurred in the architecture of sociality. We started toying with what that would mean as a design criteria for educational infrastructure. (I was trying really hard to think of optimistic ideas for formal education but i also realized how much i still detest the bureaucratic nature of public schools.)
Maybe the way forward is to look back 20-30 years. It might be worth looking back to what happened in the gifted movement in the late 70s and early 80s, before school budgets were drastically cut. In public schools, very innovative education happened on a full-time level. I was lucky enough to be in the first first-grade class in a prototype gifted kids’ class in St. Paul, Minnesota, a particularly creative urban public school district. The NOVA program later became the Rondo magnet school and though much different from our time there 25 years ago (so long ago! how is that possible?), it’s still highly lauded. The thing I found heartening is that many of these programs do a better job of reaching lower income children these days and again, even today, receive good marks (see this article for details: http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/14729521.htm)
Why Schools Don’t Educate – great essay about the state of our public schools.
also, i really liked this valedictorians grad speech condemning his own high school. =D
Apologies in advance for the self-promotion, but the post touches directly on two aspects of my work: “Why Johnny and Janey Can’t Read and Why Mr. and Ms. Smith Can’t Teach,” [pdf] and my “serious” research, “A Valence Theory of Organization.”
The basic notion is that western society’s conception of knowledge and the institutions from which it is produced are still fundamentally bound by a “Gutenbergian” worldview that promotes bureaucracy, hierarchy, and administrative controls (or BAH, for short). This, in turn, promotes resource scarcity and competition as dominant structuring forces. All of this is profoundly inconsistent with the transition to ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity, a transition that we are (approximately) smack dab in the middle of.
The UK is about to introduce a series of Learning Platforms and with them accredited VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments). The whole process is a top down initiative designed to introduce “standards” and interoperability. What, in fact, is happening is that the administrative plumbing is being put in place with no thought of learning design or how to nurture and track (not build) emergent behaviours. The contracts will be handed out to firms that are definitely web 1.0 in their outlook if at all!! Most will be proprietory boxes of content and nothing to do with community…already the tussle has begun about pedagaogy using these new tools and how it will all pan out…I think the perpetual beta is still a bit of an anathema here in the UK – schools, firms, suppliers, teachers just don’t get it – the kids do however 🙂
In order to head them off at the pass blogs.ac.uk was formed http://fraser.typepad.com/blogfolio/2006/06/2_june_2006_blo.html
for more info.
Learning Design, architecture of participation, peer to peer learning and accreditation are vital but just not being addressed at present – nor are mature Acceptable Use Policies within institutions where people are given responsibility for their actions within a freer learning environment…
It’s great some tools are being introduced into schools – and they will lead to a wider and more transparent form of teaching and learning together but at the moment people just can’t see down the line.
Wherever I have shown social networking tools to teachers and said this is what happens – they love it but the means to making it realistically happen lies, at present, with the admin and the senior managers being visonary enough to open up the channels of communication and create a culture of learning together, evolving learning opportunities if you will.
Two new booklets from Futurelab here are spreading the word: http://www.futurelab.org.uk/research/opening_education.htm
It is interesting that even before any of the official lesarning platforms have been chosen for the approved list – it is an Open Source app called Moodle that is the most used by schools where they have adopted a LP already. Some commercial firms have already started to attack it as being unsustainable and discredit it but the user base continues to grow despite this – interesting eh ? 🙂
Were there any education professionals or researchers in attendance or was this a meeting focused towards technology experts?
I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. As an educator, I am in complete agreement that we need to be more cognizant of the global implications of education, an issue too long ignored or denigrated.