A conversation with @steve_collis this morning brought up something that for me is a huge, pervasive issue in edu but something most of us aren’t talking about. We talk a lot about changing the way educators do education, changing the way institutions work, how broken things are from a delivery point of view. I do it all the time. What we almost never talk about is the fact that education (and particularly higher education, which is a non-compulsory fee-based sector) is a consumer industry and our consumers’ (students, but also parents – aka ‘the voting public’) concept of education is a very, very big elephant.
It’s the thing with desks. It’s the thing with teacher cf student. It’s the thing with readings and homework and tests and forums and exams. Steve’s point this morning was around this video, which shows (among other things), an “innovative vision” of future education – kids sitting at desks watching a teacher. The only thing that was different was they all had sexy bits of touchscreen glass with stuff whizzing around on it. It’s pretty standard fare as far as stuff like this goes.
It’s the thing where any non-traditional models get poor reviews, low attendance or low engagement. It’s the thing where you ask students about higher education and they talk about printing readings and downloading podcasts and quizzes. It’s the thing where you read parents commenting on news sites about the value of high scores and discipline and doing what you’re told and homework. It’s the thing where every singe instance of education in media and entertainment involves desks, papers, exams and above all, study. It’s the thing where schools and universities promote themselves via grades and scores and achievements. It’s nobody’s fault, but it’s a culture and it’s a problem and we’re not talking about it.
So. Choices. We can continue to work in a demand-driven model. We can innovate ruthlessly and damn the customers (anyone remember the backlash when Apple stopped putting firewire in stuff?). We can ignore it all because thinking about education as a commercial industry is soulless and horrible. Or we can start talking about it and thinking about how we might go about a culture shift from the consumers’ perspective. What we have in our favour is the fact that we know that education could be better, and we have some pretty hardcore and convincing examples of when it is better (MassivelyMinecraft, SCIL/Anarchy in Learning, BIE etc). What we need is a way to sell it. Convincingly and pervasively.
So. Let’s talk. How do we start changing minds? Not of teachers, but of students. Of parents. Of the Herald-commenting public. Of the media. How do we sell them a better picture?