Clarence over at Remote Access often puts ideas that are floating about in my head into words on his blog. Usually before I’m even aware of the ideas.
Remote Access: Classrooms of 2015
Yesterday, while out shoveling snow, I finally had a chance to listen to David Warlick’s podcast #50. A main point of this session was to spend some time thinking about what classrooms will be like in 2015. I finished this program and was worried. What worried me was not the ideas that many people had about what advances are possible. Many people spoke about wireless technologies, laptops in classrooms, digital books, distributed learning, etc. Great ideas, but here already; and this is what concerns me.
I left him a comment this morning, but the whole thing has been swirling about in my synapses for most of the day.
My problem with visualizing classrooms of 2015 is that we’re visualizing classrooms. We’re NOT considering what Education is or how it needs to be replaced. That it does need replacing is — or should be — a given. The current models of Education are not working.
Specifically, for the most part K-12 does not prepare students for the present, let alone the future. The disassociation between school and life is readily apparent to my seven year old who can’t wait to get out of school so she can “learn stuff that’s fun.” Our vision of K-12 as a basic skill training and socialization for our citizenry is desperately lacking with fewer than 90% of our citizens earning a high school diploma or equivalent by the time they’re 25 years old.
The bachelor’s degree has become the new “diploma.” It used to be that you needed a high school diploma in order to “support yourself” but that was replaced by the bachelor’s degree in the last 20 years. I say 20 years because I used to be able to make a living as an experienced systems analyst up to about 20 years ago. Then I ran into companies with H.R. policies that discounted my decades of experience because the job qualifications called for “a bachelor’s degree.” Note that in many cases, it’s not a “relevant bachelor’s degree” but just ANY degree. As one HR boffin explained it to me, “Jeez, if you had a degree in basket weaving, you’d be hired in a minute with this level of experience behind you, but without a degree, I’m prohibited from passing your resume to the hiring unit.” Now he may have been blowing smoke, but I have the feeling that there’s more of this than we know about going on.
And fewer than 25% of Americans have bachelor’s degrees.
So where does that leave us?
The Federal government has declared No Child Left Behind and requires that states spend education money on assessments to prove that schools are performing. It requires a clinical trial model of research to consider interventions valid but does not require that the assessment instrumentation even be valid. On the basis of that, the government in the US is slowly taking control of the local Educational establishment out of the hands of local communities and replacing it with … well, with nothing yet.
So, what can we do? What does Education mean?
Last year, Jim Elsworth and I went around about the commodification of Education. I think we may need to revisit that discussion. Jim suggests that the purpose of Education is to prepare a nation’s citizens to be productive in the world marketplace. That’s a good working definition until somebody comes up with a better one.
I’ve suggested that there are three obstacles to replacing the current educational infrastructure — credentialling, funding, and childcare. There may be more, but those three will be horrendously difficult to overcome.
Credentialling is the process of certifying that somebody knows something. Right now, you need a bachelor’s degree to get any job outside of the service industry in the US — and probably many of those IN th service industry as well. Why? Doesn’t the ABA have a better model? You can get a law degree anywhere you want — or even no law degree (is this true?) — and if you pass the bar exam, you’re a lawyer. Of course, without a degree you are a bit limited because firms will look unkindly at somebody who hasn’t been to law school … and practially speaking getting a law degree constitutes “Bar Exam Prep” in a big way.
But the model — learn it, pass the credentially examination, begin practice — seems to be a practical way to deal with credentialling.
So what’s the credentialling model for, say, high school? GED? What about reading credentials? Math?
If we use Stephen Downes model of “Education like Water” where you turn on the tap to get the amount of education you need just this minute, where does that put the notion of credentials? What does that mean for a society of educated citizens?