Creative Destruction for the Education Industry

I read an intriguing article this morning on changes needed to 21st century education, by Harvard President Larry Summers. Despite my own misgivings, spawning a bias that speculated ‘what elitist notions would the controversial, tin-earred Summers’ put forward. To my delight, and my own reminder about not pre-judging someone today based on who they have been before, I found a lot in the article, which provides plenty of wise foreboding.

The article addresses changes in education. Changes to education. Changes that are coming. Inevitable change. Or change that depends on breaking through the status quo that serves plenty of existing, economic interests.

The business models of learning, education and schools (all related, distinct, and inter-dependent) are grappling with this lifeforce called the internet. The internet’s trends — five of which I can name: pervading our lives, mobility, decentralizing and distributing, multimedia, networks — are transforming how we learn, how we educate, and how our schools are designed. These trends diminish the old ways of doing things, where we needed the physical contact, of being in the same room at the same time. Being in the right place at the right time is less and less a concern with the growing ease of documentation — in words, videos, the triplet forms of summaries (email messages, tweets or google.docs) — of what happens.

What used to happen once, is capable of becoming infinite — if it can be found on the appropriate server or cloudware. But, as a friend said to me last night, “if it is unseen, then it may as well not exist.”

The six obser-dations (my compound word of observations + recommendations) in the article are:

  1. more accessing (or in his term’s ‘processing’ and ‘using’) and less about imparting knowledge.
  2. collaboration and ability to work with others.
  3. better presentation/design, provides for more time for discussion.
  4. active learning classrooms, rather than passive learning.
  5. “cosmopolitanism.”
  6. emphasis on the analysis of data.

#3 mentions “accelerated videos” (in a medical student example). I am not even sure what that is. Not having been to medical school, I have not watched one there. The question is, who else is already using ‘accelerated videos’?
#6 is  — a long-winded way of re-arranging the term “data analysis.” Yet, the inclusion of emphasis makes it a

Since I love/speak/think in math so frequently, my single favorite normative statement is one of the last line of #6: “Today, basic grounding in probability statistics and decision analysis make far more sense.”

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A short while later, i glimpsed at Apple’s promotion for the iTunes U app:

an easy way to design and distribute complete courses featuring audio, video, books, and other content. And students and lifelong learners can experience your courses for free through a powerful new app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

As they state, “an entire course in one app.” It is not just the syllabus, but the reference DVD that i had to sit in the library with because i couldn’t leave the building with it. Not just the syllabus, but all of the handouts that would be given out in the course of a 13 week semester. And, video clips of any class that I might have missed due to illness or some outside obligation. All of those moments of my Spring 1997 semester would look radically different, which this app/store is intent on hastening. Or as Summers’ wrote:

A good rule of thumb for many things in life holds that things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then happen faster than you thought they could.

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Lawrence Summers article opens with the stagnant learning environment, and the parameters of the academic semester. In the middle of the third paragraph, my mind was jumping ahead hypothesizing if the article was going to proceed with ways to dismantle the parameters of ‘four courses a term, three hours a week, one professor standing at the front.’ That isn’t where the article went. That mental jumping ahead is an instance of “the processes of human thought” that he mentions in item #4.

The following sentence states, “We are not rational calculating machines but collections of modules, each programmed to be adroit at a particular set of tasks.”

Adroit (adjective): dexterous, deft, or skillful. (h/t to wiktionary, wikipedia’s little sibling)

Those unique, distinguishing characteristics are what foster collaboration and the betterment of our days and lives by engaging in interdependence. Of inviting in more interaction rather than further individualism and isolation.

presencing.org: 12 Journaling Questions

Like Daniel Pink said, I clicked through 4 sites this morning. As a result, I got to a dozen questions of U Journaling Practice: A 18 Step Journey through Your Field of the Future:

1. Awareness: What experiences in your life made you aware of the deeper dimension of your personal journey?
2. Frustration: What about your current work and/or personal life frustrates you the most?
3. Energy: What are your most vital sources of energy? What do you love?
4. Crack: Where do you feel the future now?
5. Helicopter: Watch yourself from above (as if in a helicopter). What are you doing?
What are you trying to do in this stage of your professional and personal journey?
6. Footprint: Imagine you could fast-forward to the very last moments of your life, when
it is time for you to pass on. Now look back on your life’s journey as a whole. What
would you want to see at that moment? What footprint do you want to leave behind
on the planet?
—————–(Crossing the Gate)———————-
7. What advise have you been giving from Self to self?
8. Intention: Now return again to the present and crystallize what it is that you want to create: your vision and intention for the next 3-5 years. What vision and intention do
you have for yourself and your work? What are some essential core elements of the future that you want to create in your personal, professional, and social life? Describe as concretely as possible the images and elements that occur to you.
9. Letting-go: What would you have to let go of in order to bring your vision into reality? What is the old stuff that must die? What is the old skin (behaviors, thoughtprocesses, etc.) that you need to shed?
10. Prototyping: Over the next three months, if you were to prototype a microcosm of the future in which you could discover “the new” by doing something, what would that prototype look like?
11. People: Who can help you make your highest future possibilities a reality? Who might be your core helpers and partners?
12. Action: If you were to take on the project of bringing your intention into reality, what would you like to accomplish: over the next three years, three months and three days?

 

Mobile phones v. credit card cos.

One thing i’ll say for “the dismal science” of economics — i love it’s ability to embrace and witness aspects of destruction and disruption. That it is what it is, and not cling to the past such that it blurs the ability to be today. In this spirit, I appreciated the following post (h/t nakedcapitalism) this morning for a dose of some creative destruction:

The [AT&T and Verizon] partnership, which also includes Deutsche Telekom AG unit T-Mobile USA, may work with Discover Financial Services and Barclays Plc to test a system at stores in Atlanta and three other U.S. cities that would let a consumer pay with the contactless wave of a smartphone….
The service, similar to those already available in Japan, Turkey and the U.K., would use contactless technology to complete purchases in stores. They’d be processed through Discover’s payments network, currently the fourth-biggest behind Visa, MasterCard and American Express Co. Barclays would be the bank helping to manage the accounts, said the people, who requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.

Because, really who wouldn’t want to watch some titans of Vzon and the behemoth formerly known as BabyBells go at Visa and Mastercard. Just for the sake of storytelling, it is fascinating to observe a moment where Verizon is an underdog. And is willing to risk failure by going after the bread-and-butter niche of the Plastic.
And the post closes with this ringer from Crone Consulting:

“A mobile device is online, real-time interactivity that changes the customer relationship,” he said. “A card is dumb.”

FYI, who is Crone? According to the LLC’s homepage:

for nearly 30 years, Crone Consulting, LLC, helps companies unlock the power of electronic payments to create strategic advantage in the financial services marketplace.

And, if you are unfamiliar with the phrase of “creative destruction” here is how wikipedia summarizes it:

an economic theory of innovation and progress…. In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Schumpeter popularized and used the term to describe the process of transformation that accompanies radical innovation.

Federal dollars in education in 2010-11

Reading an article in Chronicle of Philanthropy (which, btw, looks and feels much leaner than just a few weeks ago — has the advertising dropped that rapidly?) on federal allocations for school reforms. The dollar amounts are noteworthy for their relative amounts:

  • $1.15B between 2009-2011 for i3 Fund: $650M in 2009-10 stimulus plus $500M in 2011
  • $950M for the Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund
  • $210M for Promise N’hoods.
  • … mentions the cool $50M Social Innovation Fund, too.

Notable, as I’ve heard the most mention of Promise Neighborhoods. And I’ve heard about i3 after that. But, there’s very little buzz in my world of email lists, relationships and people about the near 1B in Teacher/Leader. It’s amazing to me that the one that is 5x larger has had a fraction of the discussion. (again, from where i sit, stand and read)

Like with the bailout figures of yesteryears, only figures like those above could make $50,000,000 seem small.