Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why Educational Change is Hard

Chris Lehmann has some thoughts on why educational change is hard and the limits of "Here Comes Everybody" for schools.

"So there are a couple of questions that we can examine through Shirkey's lens, then... first, why is it that schools are so hard to transform using these tools when commerce (for instance) has been so easy to change? And second, what has to happen within the community of folks -- loose as it may be -- who care about the notion of 21st Century schools.

So why is it that the changes that are taking root in so many other aspects are not changing education as quickly as we'd like? One of the things that Shirkey writes about is how the new social tools and the powerline graph of user use / success / downloads / etc... has meant that there is no longer a high cost of failure... On an institutional level, schools have an incredible infrastructure that makes them hard to change, but that's really not the big problem when we question the change through this lens.

The big problem is that we never, ever have a low cost of failure. When schools fail, kids lose. Shirky writes in Chapter 10 about how in a traditional business infrastructure, there is a natural disincentive to innovate because "more people will remember you saying yes to a failure than no to a radical but promising idea." (p. 246) I'd argue this is more true in education than in traditional businesses, again because the stakes are so high. So the educational establishment sticks to safe ideas and traditional schooling because we know that while the outcomes may not be amazing, they are predictably mediocre at worst."

"Predictably mediocre". Sadly that sums up our education system and it is predictably failing most people.

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