Jul 162012

I was going to comment on Steve Wheeler’s post, Reciprocity failure, but the comment came out so long I thought best to publish it on my own blog.

As I said in my brief comment on Twitter, it’s not often that I disagree with Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth on Twitter). I do this time, at least in the way he presents the issue, which might or might not portray well his thoughts on it. This seems to be at odds with the views on education that Steve generally puts forward and the kind of educational thinking tradition he includes himself in.

Here’s some of the points in the post that surprised me the most:

1) Are schools aware of the needs of the business sector?
2) There should clearly be a relationship between what is taught in schools and what is taught in L and D
3) There is a mismatch between what schools teach and what businesses want
4) We need to break down the silos and establish some seamless progression from school, through training, to the workplace

This view of school as the first step in a streamlined preparation of workers to meet businesses’ desires and needs is very far away from what I think an education should be. I agree that school should be more open, but to society and to the local and global culture of its time, not to business interests. In a fast changing world, where professions change heavily or disappear and new ones are created in few years, it makes even less sense to focus an individual’s education on today’s labour market.

Education is about helping people develop their full potential and become active and able citizens, capable of thinking on their own, making informed decisions and having a rewarding life, not about making them good workers according to what businesses think they need or want.

I see businesses concerned about consumers and very committed to making a profit, but when have they shown concern and commitment about public interest or the well-being of citizens? Don’t they often engage in unethical or even illegal behaviour to secure their profit or their survival?

In my view, businesses and corporations have way too much power and influence in our societies already, and I feel it is a terrible idea to think that schools and education should be more aligned with their agendas.

I believe there are more relevant areas in which changes in education would be significant, and Steve has talked and written extensively about them – make education more personal, empower learners, support creativity and personal development, develop transversal skills, focus more on processes and not only on products, develop digital literacy and the management of one’s online identity, develop critical thinking, etc.

I don’t believe current unemployment rates in many European countries are due to this “reciprocity failure”, but mostly to bad business practices and a lot of bad political decisions. In the face of that, I think we need informed, engaged and empowered citizens more than we need workers educated according to businesses’ interests.

Here’s what I think school should do to businesses’ desires and needs (:-P).

Photo by James Cridland on Flickr

Foto URL: http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-613445810


Jul 312011

Matt Damon had some great things to say at the "Save our schools march".
Matt Damon's headliner speech at the Save Our Schools March in DC, 7/30/2011.

And watch the answer he gave in this short interview (at around 38 secs). Way to go Matt :-).
What We Saw at the Save Our Schools Rally in Washington D.C.

via @timbuckteeth and @kennypieper on Twitter.

Matt Damon's headliner speech at the Save Our Schools March in DC, 7/30/2011 — introduction fr
Mar 282008

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education—and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.

This was written by Ivan Illich in1970, in Deschooling Society, but seems like something that could have been written today: “educational webs” remind us of “personal learning networks” or “personal learning environments”, and the notion of learning as a continuous, global process throughout formal and informal contexts, embeded in the very life of people, in which experiences translate into learning, sharing and caring is rather contemporary.

As far as I’m concerned, I think it’s a good idea to have a school in which children and teenagers spend a part of their day, meet and socialize, share the essential experience of the physical world. But a school made more of workshops and conversations than of traditional classes,  more for the individuals, their interests and competencies, than for the abstraction and arbitrarity that a class/cohort is, more a place of knowledge and culture to serve the students than a training environment to serve corporations and economical interests. With easy access to information and the technological tools we have today, it’s time to start thinking about a new school that replaces the one we have, resilient because of habit and tradition. Let’s be clear: the school we have today works to some extent, but it is far from the school we need for today and tomorrow’s society.

Mar 282008

Significant attainments become lost in the mass of the inconsequential

Vannevar Bush wrote this in his famous 1945 essay, As we may think, where he talks about the Memex (or memory extender), the source in which much of the way we organize or conceptualize knowledge today is said to be inspired (hypertext, Internet, networked knowledge)

In a world soaked with information, which can be accessed and retrieved in various ways almost instantly, the work of the teacher cannot remain the same, lecturing what has been said countless times, but to show what is essential and significant, model ways of connecting/relating information and thinking it critically, so as to attain knowledge and become able to use it in the real world.