Transgenetic Education

I was just reading an article at The American School Board Journal site by Victor Rivero called The Future is Flat. It's a bit long and quotes from several sources. Some of which are influential and others perhaps shouldn't be quite so much so.

Anyway, the original premise is that globalizatin is making it necessary to alter education outcomes. My point is that globalization is making it necessary to alter the education beast. To make it trans-genetic by doing some of the things Tom Friedman and Paul Ormerod talk about when they examine how globalization has forced companies to adapt in order to survive.

I then go off topic and follow the original article around a bit, finally arriving at the starting point. The Internet enables global commerce, global communications, and global social networking on a scale that few people appreciate. It can help change the face of education if it will only let go and let it happen.

Here is what I wrote to Mr. Rivero:

I thought your comments about Friedman were interesting since I haven't seen any comments from the NCLB debates that talk about globalization. I keep trying to get people to recognize another point from the book that I think is very important as well.

I recently read Paul Ormerod's "Why Things Fail and connected it to Tom Friedman's explanation of how the surviving major corporations became agile to survive. It occurred to me that competitive pressures don't exist when it comes to governments and their institutions (except armies.) So NCLB is the school system's competitor. Unfortunately, shaping communication and the ability to measure and change quickly practices isn't on the agenda.

If people think that a particular quantity of scientists is what we are after, it's a little difficult to produce that quantity of genius students when China has more honors students than we have students. My school's honors students comprise about ten percent of the school population. Obviously post secondary admission is the goal we should be using instead of tenth grade competency. If turning the communications structure and authority structure upside down is what Bob Hughes means, then by all means! If he means there is a progressive model to follow, it won't work.

Students have always left school unprepared for the workplace. Asking employers who have always had to incur expenses related to that if they think students should be better prepared is somewhat pointless.

When you say that the keys to change aren't complicated, it bothers me. If you can accept Ormerod's premise on complexity, a simple model can't be true. Of course if you improve metrics on ALL input methods, then the model will improve. Unfortunately, there are parts that are important to the model that have been judged to be irrelevant like how much money per pupil goes into a good school. Top drawer private day schools run from fifteen to twenty two thousand dollars. The church subsidized schools run as low as six thousand dollars a year. The average is eight thousand - which is around twice what the average public school budgets. Again, top drawer private schools have a faculty that runs in excess of fifty percent masters and doctorate level education in specialties. What is more, they don't move out of their specialty to teach other courses.

The Gates Foundation school has a budget of ten thousand dollars a student. The facility cost fifteen million dollars and there are only one thousand students. I honestly think anybody could do a credible job running it using any mediocre management model. They wouldn't get over eighty percent of the students into anything better than state universities, but what the hell.

Improving public school funding by 100% will only bring funding up to the level of loony bin conservative schools and doing remedial teacher training simply pales in comparison. It may be depressing, but you can't make the National League perform the same as the Yankees and Red Sox without giving them similar resources.

Julie Evans statement about "digital natives" couldn't be more odd. Maybe she means they are like the dummies in the WorldComm commercial skating around the office and not working. I teach in an emergent technology magnet school. The ability to flip a light switch didn't make their parents electrical engineers. Computers are tools that are being used for limited purposes rather than the full range of use that would be appropriate. She is right that students realize they are losing out compared to their wealthy contemporaries. The skills are being created in the home however, not schools. My most advanced students come to school with better computer skills than the majority have after completing the school's computer training courses.

Finally I think the 21st Century Skills group is trying to frame the debate in an incorrect semantic arena. They should keep it simple and just call it education. I had a conversation with the head of the Philosophy Department at FSU this summer about teaching Boolean Logic. He told me the freshmen don't know it anymore. So I asked our math coach at school and she told me they dropped it because it was not in the tests. You are presumably familiar with the calculus debate regarding proofs which has the effect of universities not accepting AP calculus credit.

This points up examples of the effect of high stakes testing. High stakes testing shouldn't affect a school that has a full and correct curriculum with good teachers. It does though. If we were to compare it to a manufacturing process, then producing a product that should cost fifty thousand dollars for twelve thousand would mean trading off in just about every important component.

Finally, implementing one to one computing on a campus won't do anything unless the faculty is ready to use the tool. We have had computing in schools for twenty years and still haven't implemented decent administrative integration. Education is such a cash cow for software companies it isn't any wonder. However, the open source community has offered solutions to the problem when it comes to helping students that are awesome.

My lessons on globalization both scare and energize my students. They should be scared because the people in charge of their lives have no idea of how the networked society will function. Schools all have a network, but they don't have a Network. I am lucky in that I have been allowed to create a good electronic delivery system that uses web services and open source products and information so that I can rapidly alter things to suit the needs of my students depending on the composition of any class. The funny thing is that I have used it for five years and I know that people like it but don't really know what is going on in it. They know my students talk about critical thinking and the history of science and how the Internet allows the globalization of information resources, but I'm not sure anybody thinks it is important.

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