Although public policy may not be able to determine the spread of Internet technology to students, it can and should channel this inherently disruptive force into a transformative one for the institution of public education.
Most education reforms start with the premise that adults need to work harder so students will learn more. But ultimately, maybe quickly, that premise is self-defeating. Regardless of the pedagogy used, who governs the school, or how long teachers toil, students are the real workers in the system. Building around that reality is one of the five key elements to bring about Learning 2.0, the next full-scale version of public education.
The words “remix” and “mashup” entered the vocabulary as descriptors of life in the digital age. They are also key to what I am calling Learning 2.0, the next full-scale version of public education.
Two of the gurus of the Internet age have written a charming, compelling, and ultimately romantic book about what learning could be.
In the opening pages of A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown lay out the dimensions of “arc of life” learning “which comprises the activities in our daily lives that keeps learning, growing, and exploring” (p. 18). (The book is self-published and available exclusively at Amazon.com.)
For the first time since the eclipse of the LEARN reforms at the turn of the millennium, Los Angeles has hosted a broad scale education summit designed to bring the city together around support for public education. “There had been a lot of what I call ‘silo’ conversations. We needed to make sure the whole community was here,” said Elise Buik, president of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which organized the program.
The contemporary politics of education cannot produce Learning 2.0. The problem is not—as many who call themselves “reformers” allege—with education interest groups. Politics is always full of interest groups, and some of the loudest reformers are reaping generous personal benefits. The problem is that the system is focused on the wrong things. For most of the last four decades, the interest groups in public education have battled over mandates and regulations: increasingly fine grained rules about who gets paid for what and what paperwork needs to be delivered as evidence of performance.
The essence of Learning 2.0
This blog post is part 2 of 3. For the first part of Learning 2.0, click here.
As the current controversy over parent takeovers of schools illustrates, almost all the politics of education concerns rearranging adult power and privilege. Relatively little political energy is spent consciously designing a contemporary system of public education. That should change.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and a raft of supporters in the foundation world fervently want to replace the tried-and-true teacher salary schedule with pay-for-performance schemes. They should be careful of what they wish for.
John Deasy deserves the welcoming he is getting as superintendent of the nation’s second largest school district. He should savor the moment; he’ll need it.
The public and private speculation about Deasy concerns whether he is really a “reformer,” whatever that means, what deals he has cut with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or the Gates Foundation, or whether United Teachers Los Angeles will electioneer a hostile school board in March.