Monday, August 26, 2013

The Business of School


The Business of School

While listening to an interview with Doc Searls on the podcast Triangulation, I decided to try to write the blog post that has been rattling around in me for a year. I have been reading, listening and watching: thinkers, authors, business leaders and educators talk about the changes that are happening and will happen in the way societies and economies function as the world moves from the Industrial Age to an Information/digital Age.  What I want to focus on is the changes that have to happen in education. So if education has been modeled on the assembly lines and top down business structure of the Industrial Age, how do we model education on the structure of the Information Age?
Doc Searls’s interview with Leo Laport was about his new book  The Intention Economy. So what is the Intention Economy? As Searls says at a South by Southwest speech
It is standard in business to talk about “acquiring,” “capturing,” “locking in,” “owning” and “managing” customers as if they were slaves or cattle. In the Internet Age, shouldn’t we be free to set our own terms, control our own data, and even state the prices we are ready to pay—outside of any company’s silo? And haven’t free customers been a promise of free market as well as the Internet from the start?
Essentially what he is saying is that “Free customers are more valuable then captive ones”. Consumers are becoming free agents.  As consumers have more say in what, when and the price they pay for goods and services, companies will have to find way to meet customer needs on the fly. Which means that companies will have to have workers that are flexible problem solvers who don’t need to check the a higher authority before meeting the customers needs. A company that embraces the Intention Economy is Zappos, the shoe retailer now owned by Amazon, is know for selling happiness and at the same time shoes. This is the opposite of the Industrial Age worker.
If the education system is to prepare children for the work force of the Information Age the  first change we need to make is a new definition for student. In the industrial model students are seen as products. Raw product is put in one end of the school factory, 1st grade, and finished product comes out the other end, 12th grade. The school factory is divided into work stations according to the students age where students are worked on to modify their performance. If a student’s performance does not meet the school factory standards the student is identified as defective and may be taken off the school factory assembly line to be given extra attention and modification. This school factory model has worked fairly well for millions of students as long as the predominate economic and social system was industrial based. But, now that many countries are transitioning to economies that are based on processing information and providing services how will the school factory model meet the needs of the new economy?
In an Intention Economy the customer (student) has more power to select the products and services (education)  provided by business (schools). This is already starting to happen in higher education with many online colleges offering quality affordable education. If the student is seen as the customer instead of a product what new education systems will develop to meet the needs of this new customer?
This is not an easy answer and I will explore ideas in following blog posts.

School Violence

School Violence

Original post Jan, 2013

The recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT has re-awakened the dialog about violence in school and in society as a whole. Many “experts” are offering opinions about what to do about school shootings. I decided that before I offer my 2 cents worth I would look at some data that may help inform the decision making process.
I know that school are one of the safest places for children and adults, but I decided to look at the numbers to get the facts. Infoplease.com has a Time Line of Worldwide School Shooting that list school shooting since 1996.
  • K-12 school shootings – 43
  • Students killed – 71 (average 4.4/year)
  • Staff killed – 21
  • Shooters – 50 (multiple shooters, 2 shooters – 4, 4 shooters – 1)
  • Multiple student deaths ( 2 deaths-6, 4 deaths-1, 5 deaths-2, 12 deaths-1, 20 deaths-1)
Next I looked at other childhood causes of death averages.
  • Homicide by firearm – 1200
  • Accident by firearm – 170
  • Abuse and neglect – 2000
  • Drowning – 1200
  • Fires – 2000
  • Motor vehicle – 6500
Anytime a child dies for any reason it is a tragedy and society makes efforts to decrease the chances of children, or anyone, dyeing due to the cause again. We have made swimming pools safer and teach children to swim, children’s clothing is fire-retardant and we put smoke detectors in home, autos are safer and we put small children in special seats. Except for guns. The NRA leadership stated that to reduce gun deaths there should be more guns. To follow that logic we should never have made swimming pools safer, just have more swimming pools in backyards with more children who can’t swim.
Except for two school shootings of 12 and 20 student fatalities, about 4 students a year are killed in schools and almost all the shooters were fellow students, not a stranger. A 0-19 year old is far more likely to be killed at home by a family member. But, many want to put more resources in schools to protect students and staff. The data show that more students are killed each year by accidental firearms then by intruders in schools. If we put guns in the hands of school staff the odds are that more students will be killed by those guns then are killed by intruders. Putting more police in schools may help in a few situations, but if a 15 year old wants to bring a gun to school and shoot another student or teacher, a police officer at the front door is of little use. Every student would have to be searched everyday. I have read estimates  of $6 billion to place a police office in every school. I wonder where the money and police officers will come from. In a small town of 4 schools, 4 police officers could be half of the towns police force.
Shootings in any school is a serious public health problem, but as in any other public health problem one “cure” will not solve the problem. In many states teens can not drive a car alone or with other teens until they have several months of driving practice with adults. This has helped reduce motor vehicle deaths for teens. Seat belts and crash resistant design have also reduced motor vehicle deaths for everyone. If we look at gun violence in schools as a public health issue with many causes and many solutions maybe school violence can be reduced. As in the chart below, childhood cancer is the second cause of death for 5-14 year old’s and society has made progress in preventing and treating it not just for children, but for everyone.
http://mchb.hrsa.gov/chusa11/hstat/hsc/downloads/images/214cmHlcd.gif

Getting to Why



Getting to Why

The logistic team has been working on crafting the announcement for the 2013 New Literacies Institute. During conversation about the wording of an email and digital newsletter that will go out to about 1500 educators in Massachusetts, a question keeps coming up,  “Why should any educator spend almost $600 and a week at our institute?” We listed all the great keynotes, content team, and breakout sessions we will have, all the wonderful digital tools teachers will learn to use, and how teachers will be inspired to turn their classrooms in to 21st century learning centers, but it still did not get to the core of “Why”.
As we struggled with Why, I remember a TEDx video by Simon Sinek – Getting to why.


Sinek has developed what he calls the golden circle, with Why at the center then How at the next level out from the center and What being the next level out. His thesis is that successful companies work from the center out, or they have a deep understanding of why they do what they do instead of selling what they do.
His mantra of “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” helped focus us on the core of why we do the New Literacies Institute – Everything we do at the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute stems from a belief in thinking innovatively about how children are educated. We believe students deserve to have access to skills, tools, and knowledge that will help them succeed in school and life. We believe that the digital age offers an opportunity to fundamentally change the way education works.  How we change education is by understanding that Online Reading Comprehension, Online Collaborative Inquiry, and Online Content Construction are the literacies  of the digital age. What we do is train teachers to use ORC, OCI, and OCC in their teaching practice.
We have also been using Dan Pink’s ideas about Drive – autonomy, mastery, purpose, as guides when think about and planing the next MNLI.

I have thought about how to merge these two concepts of what makes a business successful (education is a business) and came up with the following idea.

The How level of Simon Sinek’s golden circle is where Dan Pink’s autonomy, mastery, purpose can be used.
Now comes the application of these concepts to find out if it makes sense. Any feedback on the synthesis of these two concepts is welcome.

Connectivism - a new learning theory


Connectivism – a new learning theory


There are three current broad theories of learning: behaviorism, constructivism, and constructivism. These theories have developed over time to describe the process of learning and then been used to develop learning systems, mainly schools. Each has a place in the practice of teaching, but just as other technologies (writing, print press, electronic media) has caused a necessary re-evaluation of learning theories the latest technology evolution, digital media and the Internet, has created a need to once again re-evaluate learning theories.
Connectivism  is a learning theory driven by the development of the Internet and digital media. It is being developed by George Siemans and Steven Downes, two Canadian educators. Their development of Connectivism is based on several observations of significant trends in learning:
  • Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
  • Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.
  • Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.
  • Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.
  • The organization and the individual are both learning organisms. Increased attention to knowledge management highlights the need for a theory that attempts to explain the link between individual and organizational learning.
  • Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by, technology.
  • Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).
Now that we have almost instant access to – 121 billion webpages (2010), the English version of Wikipedia with 4.2 million articles, and Youtube’s uploads of100 hours of video every minute. With all this information available on a device in your pocket what it means to learn has to be expanded.
The learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism assume that learning takes place inside people, but not the learning taking place outside of us. Connectivism is a learning theory that recognizes that in a networked world the way that information is created, distributed,  processed, and evaluated plays a significant role in the learning process.
Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.
(G. Siemans)
George Siemans lists the principles of connectivism as:
  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
Connectivism is seen as the learning theory for the digital age, just as other learning theories were developed to describe the interaction of writing or the printing press with education.