Sunday, August 9, 2009

Education: Adopting the worst practices to make the truly horrid

Calhan High School seniors in Colorado, USA.Image via Wikipedia

The NYTimes has this interesting article on: In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History, Where it has some interesting things on electronic textbooks I found the comments on the future of education of most interest.

I've talked before about the high schoolification of higher education. I hadn't given much thought to the opposite occurring-- high schools adopting the worst practices of the academy. I found this vision of the future from the Orange County, CA superintendent of schools most troubling:

We’re still in a brick-and-mortar, 30-students-to-1-teacher paradigm,” Mr. Habermehl said, “but we need to get out of that framework to having 200 or 300 kids taking courses online, at night, 24/7, whenever they want.”

The future of a technology rich education is the scaling-up of today's factory model school? I thought we're eight (or so) years into the Web 2.0 world? It's been years since we thought of information technologies as instruments to increase productivity and efficiency: Sick Stigma applied to learning. Just say no!

I would hope that any discussion of the future of education would focus on ambient intimacy. Social learning in groups of less than eight. Using technologies to enable more personal, compassionate, and humanitarian learning experiences. I'm pretty certain this isn't going to happen in "classes" of 30, 300, or 3000.

There's a scene in Public Enemies that I've been thinking about for a few weeks. G Man, Melvin Purvis had been given the job of "getting" John Dillenger. He's been crafting a strategy, and realises he's got a problem. He goes to J. Edgar Hoover and says something like, "I can't do what you're wanting me to do with this team. I need..." He basically tells Hoover that the organisation doesn't have the right DNA to deal with this newer and more violent type of criminal. The criminals had innovated, and the bureaucracy had not. It simply wasn't in the culture of the FBI to do what it needed to do.

That's what I thought of when I read this article. The old team of educators isn't going to get the job done. We desperately need some new DNA. Some serious innovation.




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