In the past couple of days, I’ve come across two different initiatives to improve education. And certainly our education system can stand improvement. However, each one had the same major flaw, and leaves open an opportunity for improvement not to occur. Over a number of engagements I’ve developed the basis of what I think is a necessary foundation for a viable education platform. It’s time to toss it out and see what you all think.
So, one initiative had a proposal of 10 different areas they wanted people to contribute in. This included AI, and personalization, and ‘out of class’ credit, and more. Which is all good, make no mistake! However, nowhere was there the option of ‘a deeper pedagogy’. And that’s a problem. It’s all too easy to chase after the latest shiny object. It makes us feel like we’re both doing something constructive and keeping up with developments. (Not to mention how much fun it is to play with the latest things.) However, gilding bad design is still bad design! We need to make sure the foundation is strong before we go further.
The other initiative has three ways to contribute: lifelong learning, a marketplace, and emerging technology. And, again, the big gap is talking about the pedagogy to begin with. With a marketplace, you might get some Darwinian selection process, but why not put it out there from the get-go? Otherwise, it’s just cool tinkering around a broken core.
So here’s where I pitch my 3 part story. Note that curriculum is broken too (I’m channeling Roger Schank: ‘Only two things wrong with education, what we teach and how we teach it’), and yet I’m not addressing that. Well, only a second layer of curriculum (see below ;). I think the choice of the first level curriculum is a big issue, but that changes depending on level, goals, etc. Here I’m talking about a platform for delivering the necessary elements of a supportable approach:
- The first element is a killer learning experience. What do I mean here? I mean an application-based learning approach. Even for so-called theory classes (e.g. typical higher ed), you do something with this. And the experience is based upon minimal content, appropriate challenge, intrinsic motivation, and more. My claim: this is doable, even when you want to auto-mark as much as possible. Of course, there are still people in the loop.
- Which leads to the second element, we as the provider are a partner in your success. It’s not ‘sink or swim’, but instead we’re tracking your progress, intervening when it looks like you’re struggling, and accessible at your time and place. We’re also providing the necessary resources to succeed. And we’re not interested in a curve, we’re competency-based and want everyone to get where they can be. We’re also making sure you’re getting what you need.
- And that’s the third element, we develop you. That is, we’re not just developing your knowledge of the field, we’re also developing key success skills. That means we’re giving you chances to practice those skills as well, and tracking them and developing them as well. This includes things like communication, collaboration, design research, and more. So-called 21C skills.
I suggest that with such an approach, and the right curriculum, you’re providing a full suite of what education should be about. And, I suggest, we can do this now, affordably. Technology is part of the picture, learning science is part of the picture, and the commitment to do the right thing is part of the picture. Also, I think this is viable at all levels. K12, higher ed, and workplace.
And, I’ll suggest, anything less really isn’t defensible. We have the know-how, we have the tools, all we need is the will. Yet, despite some notable steps in the right direction, we’re really not there. It’s time to put a stake in the ground. Who’s up for it?