Friday, October 23, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

We’re in an interesting time, there’s no doubt about it. With the financial collapse of the traditional mechanisms and the landscape changing at an exponential rate how prepared are we to construct and think differently about the future, how are we preparing future generations for this different landscape. As Phyllis Grummon of the Society for College and University Planning states “we are in a ‘neutral zone’ – a time of maximum uncertainty and time for creative possibility between the ending of the way things have been and the beginning of the way they will be”. The important aspect of this is that the “re-arranging the deck chairs approach” needs some serious reconsideration.

Too often we place technology as a driver for this reconsidered approach as if technology is driving it, I disagree, technology is an enabler of this change, it makes certain things possible efficiently and effectively, but it is not a driver. We have to look at why we need to change our approaches and a great deal resides in the purest elements of human motivation and ability; we have to question our logic of carrying forward the educational and management principles of the industrial age into the knowledge age. This is at the root of the change.
I think Sir Ken Robinson eloquently raises some very key principles to this change in his excellent book “The Element” that queries and examines many of our pre-conceived notions about education and management principles, illustrated very succinctly in this clip:

I strongly recommend watching the entire talk here
I believe Sir Ken is very right in his summation of how humans work and learn best and that the management hierarchies and educational structures put in place for the industrial revolution no longer hold water. I hear so much debate about returning to good educational principles, good teaching etc, but seldom hear anybody analyse how sound those principles were in the first place. The history of the grade and assessment system in education was never born out of good educational theory, it was born out of an industrial practice of paying teachers piece meal based on the number of students they had in their class, an entrepreneurial teacher therefore invented a system that allowed him to teach larger numbers in order to be paid more.

As Marshall McLuhan pointed out “We drive into the future using only our rear view mirror” and “Our age of anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools and yesterday’s concepts”. With this in mind, what does the future require of us, how do we rethink our preconceived notions on how to structure education and management hierarchies and systems? I explored many of these questions in my Did You Know? video below by taking information and quotes from leading research and thought leaders on these matters, there is a great deal of research in cognitive science on how the brain learns that we did not know before and new theories of education emerging from this, connectivism being just one. Additionally, management principles are being reassessed along with business models, the global economic meltdown may now be the catalyst or “tipping point” to enable this change beyond the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rhetoric of the past that has viewed these ideas as “happy clappy”. The notion that you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube is probably a correct analogy. As with education, it is time to re-assess the motivation dynamics of business, as Daniel Pink eloquently does here in his TED conference speech from July this year at Oxford:

Phyliss Grummon’s assertion above is just as applicable to the world of work as it is the world of education, we are at an important time and we need to landscape and plan for possible futures, something Price Waterhouse Cooper explored very well in their Future of Work 2020 project. These are all seeds of thought, the big question is how we grow them because we can’t build them in an industrial manner, this is our climate change issue within the human climate and we’re at just as critical a point as we are with the environment and it shouldn’t be an inconvenient truth.

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