TODAY’S education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.
Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.
Marketplace mantras dominate policy discussions. High-stakes reading and math tests are treated as the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line. Teachers whose students do poorly on those tests get pink slips, while those whose students excel receive merit pay, much as businesses pay bonuses to their star performers and fire the laggards. Just as companies shut stores that aren’t meeting their sales quotas, opening new ones in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.
As we are nearing the World Learning Summit June 14th – 16th; a few thoughts on how technology impacts on education and learning. We are all familiar with the debate on Massive Open Online Courses, and the history of MOOCs ascending, subsequent worries, commercialisation issues and more. We are familiar with the accelerating research and exploration on “flipped classroom”, and much more.
But it still seems as if the way educational institutions and education research approaches the spectre of new learning forms, lacks a certain scope: What C.Wright Mills once dubbed “the sociological imagination”? Education´s digital future concerns much more than the emergence of scaling technologies, and much more than pedagogical adaptation to media ubiquity. 1) Students learn differently these days, as media habits and access to information alters the very notion of “studying”. 2) Relations to educators are changing. 3) Educators face new uncertainties. 4) Institutions are adapting, and new institutions emerge. 5) Social media are becoming integral parts of how education institutions present themselves – the very fact that Facebook is becoming a “must have” tool simply because your employer uses it for informational purposes, seems more than a little odd.
The list continues: 6) What we need to know is another question, equally important to “how we need to know”. 7) As educators, we may be seeking support systems and not finding them. 7) Around the world, the majority of students are far from well equipped to master the cultures of technology. Broadband is neither a fact of life, nor a human right, as much as it is a scarcity. 8) Transnational corporations are embedding themselves in educational life much like transnational broadcasting once became integrated in family life, with radio shows and TV shows for every taste and societal segment.
So what are the big issues? The future of learning and education is certainly not a question of effective pedagogy, or understanding how learning collaboration occurs in a classroom. It is that, too. But at the heart of the matter, one might argue that we still find the questions once raised by Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis: Technologies are extensions of ourselves, altering individual being in the world and institutional organisation of society.
So let us not forget the deeper issues of cultural transformation.
…and especially a discussion we will be mounting on the coming challenges of scale in Nordic higher education. Ola Erstad is a familiar name to most Norwegian academics in the area of digital learning technologies. We’re happy to announce Ola’s participation at our June summit. Currently the department head at the UiO department of pedagogy, Ola has a long history of project making crossing back and forth between pedagogy and media studies. Here is a small list of his projects – later we will come back with a more detailed blog post:
2005-2009 Head of Steering committee for the national development project ‘Networks for Learning’ (‘Lærende nettverk’), involving almost 600 schools and teacher training colleges during this time period.
2000-2003 National Research Coordinator for Norway on the international study ’Second Information Technology in Education Study – Module 2’ (SITES M2), organized by Stanford Research International (USA), Twente University (the Netherlands) and University of Toronto (Canada).
1999-2003 Head of research for the National PILOT project, (120 schools in 9 regions of Norway, involving 16 researchers from different University Colleges in Norway doing action research in a sample of schools).
Part of project ‘Mediatized stories’, project leader Knut Lundby. Sub-project in lower secondary on ‘Digital storytelling’.
Happy New Year from the WLS Team!
On the summit blog you will now find updated information on the featured keynote speakers for the 2016 Summit. As we move into the new year, we will continue to add speakers, as well as updated information on the program as it develops.
The workshop on corporate learning promises to be an engaging one, one of the reasons being Karl Mehta’s presence there. Karl was key to our 2015 summit at Stanford, a co-collaboration between his company EdCast, the Stanford H-Star Institute and our Future Learning Lab network of dedicated friends from the University of Agder in Norway and beyond.
You can read more about Karl here, and later we will be doing an interview on the website as well. [fblike]