Education – a battleground – Like Media will be won when we can choose

I have no faith that the existing education system can change – no more than the existing media system. In the end it will fall over from its own weight and poor outcomes. But as with media, the new Ed system is visible and will gain strength and will make the old irrelevant.

After many years of thinking and talking, here Sir Ken I think nails the problem and gets the direction for the right new path correct. Helped a lot by the guys at RSA.

So what can we do with this insight?

My experience in public radio and TV – which also is at a crossroads from one culture to another – is that we must not underestimate the power of the entrenched culture. Most people inside pub radio/TV and in education are so invested in the old that they can only fight an alternative.  This is not because they are bad or stupid – it is because they are human and their identity is the system as it is. So to change it means that they have no place. So they cannot go to the new.

If you long for a better education system – you are also worried about how to breakthrough all these barriers. You don’t know how to change the system. I think that we can look at what is happening in media and find a way.

So where is the change happening in media that we might use to help us in education. As I write them I can see how these factors apply to education – can’t you?

  • The long term effects of the poor economy is pressing the system
    • The school system is under huge funding pressure too
    • In higher ed – the degree also costs too much now and drives loans that canot be repaid
    • Kids will seek out new ways – they have to
    • In the next 10 years the pressure to find a new way for the money will become unbearable – thus creating the same kind of context for change that we see in media
  • There are organizations like Craigslist that are killing the economics of the old and forcing economic pressure – the old way leads to economic starvation and sets a context for change
    • There are new online schools such as the Khan Academy that offer kids a wonderful alternative to school
    • Great Schools like MIT have put a lot of superlative content online
    • Kids are voting with their feet – better content will be available online for next to free as with Craigslist and personals that will ad to the economic pressure
  • The web has a bunch of new tools such as Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, iTunes, Apple TV etc that are empowering new sources and new ways of finding, producing and using content
    • Same for Ed – iTunes, YouTube are already there
    • Why take Math with Miss Jones when you can get the world’s best math teachers on your time at your pace?
    • Parents will buy into this too
  • There are entirely new organizations – Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Politico – Greenfield that go through no transition but start with the new model – they are forcing competitive pressure
  • There are a few old leaders who get it and have enough critical mass inside to go for it now – The Guardian in the UK and NPR – they are forcing change on their system
    • Athabaska and Phoenix come to mind in higher ed – they are moving to the mainstream
    • Soon there will be Grade Schools that have the same features
  • There are  few local small organizations that have the leadership to go for it too and are making enough progress to show the rest – KETC is the one I know the best.

So what to do?

Don’t think about changing the whole system!!!!! It’s too big and powerful.

Instead take advantage of these powerful forces.

If you are a learner – Explore the new world of resources – do not feel trapped in school as it is or feel that you have to wait – enough change is here for you to take full advantage now

If you are a parent – see the whole picture for you child – help line them up into that is now available that is more fitted to them and at a cost you can all afford. Vote with your feet.

If you are a school board – Learn how to make the shift from the old to the new – Do a KETC – pick a school with the right leadership and try the new in ONE place – learn from this – use this test bed to expose others to the new from their peers.

If you are a teacher – Learn how to be the new – participate in the new world – be a citizen teacher – offer content or coaching – learn how to be an entrepreneurial teacher who can hang up their shingle on the web or locally. Be the math coach or the history coach in your place or globally!

If you are a social entrepreneur – Build the new a place together so that you are the convener of the a place where kids can be together and yet be part of the a larger universe of resources that fits them!

It’s coming folks – the forces in play are too great to stop it. BUT you have to be a player now if you want to benefit.

After the jump – the end of text books – Bill Gates and my own view of the university that I would like to see

It’s back to school. One of the worst things about being a student are text books.  They cost a bomb. They are “New” every year but like many new cars new only in a minor way. They are Mandatory. They are often out of date – always boring and often wrong.

In the emerging web world – will Text Boks as we know them last?

Arguably the most expensive reference book – the English Oxford Dictionary – 21 years in the making for the next edition will never be printed! Why? Because it does not make any sense to print it. Web search is so much better than manual and the costs of a print edition are too high. (Telegraph) HT Johnnie Moore. Today most access the OED via subscription online – 2 million hits a month from subscribers who pay $500 a year. Web search and printing costs have killed the print side.

Academic Journals are also coming under attack for being too expensive.

The Text Book has its replacement in use already.

My favorite alternative is the Khan Academy. A free online site that has a math and science focus.

My son likes the MIT site.

So why pay $200 for a text book that is not as good as this?

Bigger question – does not this cause you to question how schools are set up now? Why if math is so poorly taught do most kids have to endure Miss Jones plodding her way along when they could use Khan?What might this do to schools?

Might this see a return to a university where the core structure was a network of teachers as they were in Padua and Oxford in the 14th century? And what about K-12? Could a one room school that had a small staff of coaches and access to the best teaching in the world knock the pants off a regular school?


Few people are as passionate about Education than BG. Here he is talking about what he has learned by a lot of experiments.

  • That K-12 is best as an immersive system with long days – best 6 days a week and in the summer as well. The best charter schools know this and practice it.  Having had all my school like this myself – my sample of 1 agrees with this.
  • This means that for K-12 Place is key – like going to Boot Camp. But there is a real role here for online in that it expands the scope of the place
  • BG feels (2.50) however that shifting the formal system to either of these ideas – more immersive and more online – can never happen – the cultural barriers are too high
  • On the College and university front, he points out that here the issue is access. The main barrier to access is “Place” that drives direct cost and prohibits the student from having any flexibility.
  • Here he anticipates big movement driven by the economics. Place drives costs of up to $250,000 for a BA. He thinks that the target is to reduce this not to $20,000 but to $2,000

I think this is entirely possible. But what established university will have the guts to do this? Will they all end up like the newspapers? Hanging on for dear life?

I think that most will rather die than change. As many of us are finding in the front lines of change – it is impossible to underestimate the power of the establishment.

But I think that maybe a few established universities might go the whole way. I think that those who do will win the most. There is something very important about having an establishment organization or person as part of a revolution. Martin Luther had his Princewho defended him from both the Pope and the Emperor. In newspapers it may be theGuardian. In public TV it may be KETC. (Here is KETC Immigration page where they are putting the Public Into Public TV).

I think of my university here on PEI – What if UPEI had another 25,000 online students? here is a snip of a larger idea like this that I wrote 5 years ago:

Come to PEI for the summer and meet the other students and then go onto take an online Master’s degree in the Natural Economy. The Master in the Natural Economy (MINE) is a master’s degree course that engages the learner as many of the ideas and practices of the new ways of organizing and acting as possible. It embodies the ideas of our new time. It draws on hundreds of “Gurus” that live all over the world that bring their own story and experience to bear. Students, who nearly all are employed, develop their own path of study within the context of the course intention.

The school initially emerged out of one course, Marketing as a Conversation inspired by Cluetrain and by the ongoing thinking and blogging of by people like Seth Godin, Hugh McLeod, Johnnie Moore and Jennifer Rice. Their marketing revolution was the first breach of the old system that took hold.

There are a number of paths that students can take but all the work is founded in the ideas of how real relationships and real networks work. Paul Hawken is Dean Emeritus and the current Dean of the School in Natural Economy is George Dafermos who’s early writing on the use of Open Source, as an organizational model, has been so influential. Robert Scoble is the Visiting Guru this year and will be on PEI this summer offering workshops in Voice and Culture. He replaces Dave Pollard who will be sorely missed.

Students spend a month in the summer here on PEI where their task is to get to know each other and to decide on their focus for study. They then return home and form groups that are facilitated by the gurus. The full Masters degree costs only $7,000 and has of course no other costs. There are now 17,000 students in the system that is 4 times the size of UPEI, conventional undergraduate school.

MINE Graduates are in extreme demand as organizations struggle to understand the shift that they have to undergo. The traditional business schools have had great difficulty in moving this fast because they have such an investment in the old. Similarly, the major consulting firms have all but collapsed, as they too could not reframe their costs and their competence.

In their place have emerged networks of “Gurus” like the Hughtrain Alliance that are recognized as the key talent that shook the marketing world. These networks have a very different model and become partners of the host organization. They are not report writing organizations with expensive offices and extreme hierarchies but are much more like coaches of a team. Most of the students of the Natural Economy work and most of their study is in the context of solving their real challenges.

In effect, consulting has become an extension of the education process.

As with Luther – the big change will happen on the edge where the “field” is weakest. A small undergraduate university, like UPEI or back in the day Wittenberg, is less gripped by the power of the prevailing culture and can see the gains that might accrue to them.


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