Thursday, October 17, 2013

Innovation in Global Education-Part III

In the last segment, I suggested that there is needed and is coming, a revolution in a number of facets of education. The online virtual education school will spearhead the need for these changes. The reason is that we can no longer do things the way we have always done them. With each generation of student, the interconnectedness they have, via the Internet, to people on the planet requires new skill sets that allows these prospective citizens to function in an online world.

A revolution in the organisation of teachers and administrators for the online world will undoubtedly be met with much resistance from the status quo but has this not always been true with revolutions? What I am going to suggest in this segment may result in some having temper tantrums because they find it threatening and certainly not within their comfort zone!

First, lets look at the concept of public education over the last century. The noble goal of public education was to make education available to anyone without regard to the parents' socio-economic status in life. This has enabled generations of young people to excel and become contributing members of the societies that they lived in. In the developed countries, and notice very carefully my choice of words, I said "developed countries", this has led to advancement in many areas of life for certain segments of the population. However, if examined in the light of the 21st century, we see constant complaints from the general public, which are then taken up by the politicians who based upon little or no scholarly evidence, pass legislation that has an impact on all stakeholders in education. Add to the this mix the power and influence of teacher's federations, unions, organizations or what ever name is in vogue in your country, you have to ask the question:" Has this form of public education outlived its usefulness for the advancement of  our society?" Should public education be totally privatized in much the same way that Medicine, Law, and other professions have been established? Yes, I do know that we have families who live in poverty in many developed countries but they still have access to a doctor or a lawyer if they need one despite how these professions are organized.
With regards to how teachers are organized, what would a possible organization look like? During this century, one of the mantras found on ministries of education web-sites was the concept of "life-long learning". However, despite educational structures such "night school", life-long learning has been difficult to obtain for adults because of work schedules. If as societies we say that life-long learning is important to our societies then it should be important for all age groups within our societies. That is precisely why the way that  teachers are organized much change.
A few years ago, I suggested that with the rise of online learning it was time to talk about "mentoring communities" rather than the just the children of communities. To do this, I suggested that teachers needed to be re-organized into structures that I termed "Master Teacher Guilds". If you remember your lessons from world history, a "guild" was a organization of craftsmen in medieval times whose primary pursuit was to refine their craft to such a high degree that the general public sought them out because of the integrity and care they exercised in perfecting their craft. In teaching you have some who think, much like scientists, that if you use a particular formula to address something that is desirable for students to develop, you will always get what is expected. If you don't obtain the expected results the fault lies with the practitioner, lets call him/her a teacher, and therefore re-training is required. However, there are some who don't agree that developing skills in students just requires the administration, in the prescribed ways, the collected best practices. Some have the audacity to suggest that teaching is also an art form and in the right combination with best practices, not only are the expected results obtained but there is room for innovation. This leads to the rise of what we may call "master teachers".
A "Master Teachers Guild" would mentor communities via the online environment and it would be a private organization of teachers and administrators.
Well, coming back to the present, watch carefully the growing tide of online schools but judge carefully their vision. Two interesting but dated books to take a look at is: "The Organization of the Future" (Drucker Foundation, 1997) and "The Ingenuity Gap"(Thomas Homer-Dixon, 2001).
More in the next segment....

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