Just posted this in response to Fred Bartel’s ISED-L post earlier this week:
Boy Fred, You always motivate me to write long responses to your posts! I started [ http://www.learning-blog.org ]a blog over break — that, along with adjusting old third child – who is six weeks old – took much of my time — but what a break it was! I’ve
been watching listserv’s, blogs, and continuing to try to read books. Learning is what we do and if creating life long learners is our goal, it is indeed what we should be modeling for our students.
I especially like the following notes in your post:
“In an era of revolutionary changes in information technology perhaps schools need to expend more than just routine effort, time and money on getting faculty acculturated to new developments.”
“All this implies a really hard look at what we teach and how we teach it. It also implies that much loved (at least by teachers) parts of the curriculum will need to go. As a gardener I know that it is sometimes hard to trim, or remove, a plant that is no longer right for a given space. Yet it has to be done to keep the garden in balance. I think we have curricular gardens which were largely designed for a pre-computer world, and they are becoming increasingly unbalanced in a computer mediated world. Perhaps it is time to do some serious trimming and transplanting.”
This garden analogy is excellent. This fall I read ASCD’s book, School Leadership that Works: From Research to Results and in their meta-analysis of leadership they found two types. Type I changes is the incremental — change one thing at a time —
tending to your garden. Type II change “involves dramatic departures from the expected, both in defining a given problem and in finding a solution.” (p. 66) — serious trimming and transplanting. This type II change is what is definitely going to be
needed in schools soon.
I just begin reading The Cluetrain Manifesto, and in it they describe how Frederick Taylor influenced Henry Ford’s production line which divided each task into subtasks that one worker would specialize on. In graduate school, I read about how Taylor’s
theory influenced schools in the early 20th century. We need to look at current business practices and learn how to adjust our curriculum to be interconnected and flatter as businesses are moving today. If we are to believe what Tom Friedman argues in
“The World is Flat,” this flattening and integrating of our schools will be very important in the near future.
There are so many signs that schools will have to make type II changes to adjust for the type of knowledge worker in the 21st century. So what types of changes can be made and how to implement?
I see a school that has flexible structures. That asks students to goal set for each year period of time, and holds students accountable for their work. A school that breaks down the artificial barriers of English, History, Math, Science, Foreign
Language, and Arts and has specialty teachers collaborating with each other and their students. A school that meets throughout the entire year and works closely with businesses, organizations, and other students and teachers around the world via, blogs,
audio and video teleconferencing, and other new technologies to create collaborative learning environments.
In the Summer 2005 issue of Independent School, Grant Wiggins published an article titled, “Why Education is Still Pre-Modern and What We Can Do About It“. In it, he proposes a new Upper School curriculum that has, “Courses that you would leave and enter based on meeting certain standards, not on the time spend in class, but time needed to meet goals.” — “The redeployment of staff as necessary to accomplish school and individual learning goals.” –“Ongoing personal assessment against goals and their
standards, not just short-term teacher content objectives” — “Organized conversation with institutional as well as personal clients. Most management gurus tell you that, 25 to 50 percent of the time, good managers are with the customers. Teachers
should be required to meet regularly with college professors and professionals in their field on a yearly basis.” Wiggins concludes that “There is one thing preventing such a common sense analysis: habit, rooted in unexamined traditions.”
So who is going to take it to the next level and look at our “unexamined traditions”? Who is going to answer the hard questions that Fred is asking? If we as Independent School educators what to stay ahead of the game, we will need to be in touch with
business processes and make appropriate changes. The question is, who is first?