Sunday, April 05, 2009

netbooks in schools: unstoppable force versus immovable object

1:1 netbooks in schools, summary of my analysis so far

unstoppable force:
a device which can be used educationally which has become -
  • cheaper
  • lighter
  • take home 24/7
  • personal ownership
  • robust
  • world wide communication and collaboration
  • cloud computing
  • free software and hardware (the latter linked to communication plans)
  • pressure on schools to be up to date, cutting edge (update 11th April)
immovable object:
  • teachers as gatekeepers of standards
  • historically packaged curriculum which eschews diversions
  • resistance to unguided youthful exuberance
  • technology is everything invented since you were born
  • the disturbing aspect of young people being generally quicker learners of new technology than older people
  • teachers overworked, don't have time
  • incredibly diverse nature of teachers work
  • available teacher time is small chunks not large chunks required for paradigm shift


Darius said...

Hi Bill. Love your blog and your Alan Kay quotes.

Regarding the 1:1 and the "immovable object"... I think Clay Christensen in "Disrupting Class" got it right. Change will happen from the outside in.

For example, imagine a near future world where most of these overworked teachers get laid off and end up working for small businesses in storefronts as tech-armed tutors ... something like those test oriented tutoring companies, but actually knowledge/skill oriented instead of test oriented. They teach without all the burdens you list here, but teach by having students create 3D immersive worlds instead, leveraging students creating with and sharing together subject mater/skills which students need to know, including life-skills. Then they advertize to all the students who get D's & F's for their regular school marks. Hence, selling a "sub-par product" to the schools' "non-customers"... for now.
In this recession, they may earn just enough through membership fees to make a living, but that will change.

Soon students may not need school, while school is still dependent on students.

Bill Kerr said...

hi Darius,

Thanks for the comment and compliment

From your croquet description and group blog, The future invented , I can see where you are coming from

I haven't read Christensen's "Disrupting Class" but have read some reviews of it recently. However, there are different interpretations of Christensen. Steve Hargadon's initial review was interesting:

"From my reading, the disruptive innovation is not online education, but the increasing expectation that our children/students will have a customized educational experience"

I see your longer paragraph as fanciful because:
(a) teachers will suffer less than many other worker groups in the coming great repression
(b) 99.9% of teachers don't have your programming / developer skills

I think one core problem here is that the dynabook does not yet fully exist, as pointed out by alan kay last year

As always it is easier to imagine the future than to work out how to get there. It's the tension between those concepts that needs more thought, discussion, development etc.

Darius said...

Hi Bill,
Thank you for your thoughtful and researched reply.

Yes. My thoughts described are fanciful as queued by my phrase "imagine a near future world". However, given the right constraints on our society, I don't think they are improbable. For example, because of our seniority based teaching system here in California, the most youthful, tech-savvy, energetic, relates to students, non-personal-time constrained teachers, who just spent a massive amount of money on their personal college education (as college prices soar) for their career are the first ones getting the ax in our schools here. Those teachers are going to do something because they care, just not in public school.

I believe the Christensen book is well worth the money. The few reviews who critique it miss that it is a signpost showing what will happen due to the principles of social forces, not a road map on how to get there.

It's like listening to reports by parents in the '50s thinking they can control what influences their teens by controlling what gets played on the living room radio. Instead, it was teens on the road who made Sony into the electronic powerhouse it is today by choosing the freedom which transistors and transistor radios gave to them.

The book is not about the technology or which technology or who administers the technology. It's about the freedom the technology provides to learn what is needed to solve real-world problems with knowledge administered in the communication mode that is really most appropriate to the physical/mental constraints of the individual learner.

Bill Kerr said...

hi Darius,

I would like to see some stats / estimates about how many teachers will be laid off or not obtain work in California in view of the economic downturn / recession / depression / whatever. I haven't researched this myself but my guess is that teachers jobs are relatively safe. Maybe I should research it, not sure.

I accept your general point that an outsider such as Christensen who knows a lot about creative disruption or disruptive innovation maybe able to see the dynamics of school change more clearly than those at the whiteboard. The Steve Hargadon review which I quoted was sympathetic to Christensen.

Can you put a case that the Christensen book contains significantly more than these big ideas:

* in most cases computer technology is poorly used in schools
* disruption is required to change things
* the particular disruption that might work in schools is
- either online education
- or the increasing expectation that our children/students will have a customized educational experience

Unless I hear more then I guess I won't put it onto my must read list. See my summary of this book's reviews here