The clash of paradigms described by Dr. Leonard Waks and Sir Kenneth Robinson is a struggle between preserving the hierarchical industrial model of education by reforming schooling on the one side, and deploying digital and network technologies to transform education by evolving schools into open educational centers of learning on the other.
While there are common elements between these paradigms, there are some significant differences. The industrial model of schools is characterized by hierarchical structures, standardization, and age-grouping for the purposes of initiating young people into the adult world of factory work. Some of the assumptions here include the legitimacy of the diploma system to deliver desirable employment and social allocation, the concept of “the dropout” as socially deleterious and collecting diplomas from high school, college, and graduate school is socially desirable. Another assumption is that only certified teachers ought to deliver the content they are credentialed to teach through standardized curricula.
In contrast, the Education 2.0 educational model is based on individualized learning, collaboration, and teaching and learning with digital tools and open, networked resources. Schools are conceived of as open education centers making wide use of Open Education Resources and seek to initiate young people into the adult world by connecting them to it through situated learning experiences. Advocates view teachers and students alike as participants in and contributors to the learningweb, through which they are initiated to take their place in the knowledge economy. Education 2.0 advocates also make some assumptions. The first is that students can guide their own learning journeys. The second is that non-certified persons can be co-equal educators of self-directed students simply by virtue of their content knowledge and experience. The third has to do with what often appears to be a privileging of technological means to learning ends. Granted, this last one is not necessarily what Ed 2.0 adopters believe. Nevertheless, when the use of learningweb technologies is a central component of the paradigm, the message quickly gets elided that what matters is quality instruction regardless of whether or not technology is involved.
Hesitations & Keeping Within Known Boundaries
Reasons abound for why individuals and entire systems remain within the old paradigm and be reluctant to adopt the new paradigm. One reason for remaining likely has to do with the rhetoric surrounding education. “Reform” is a difficult concept to oppose. So conceiving of oneself as a reformer provides an attractive and powerful identity. Who can’t get behind reforming schools, especially when the schools have been framed as failures? As Sir Kenneth Robinson notes, “People say we have to raise standards as if this is a breakthrough…. Yes, we should. Why should you lower them?” Ideas such as this are so positive they are easy to espouse and feel good about embracing. Another reason for keeping within the old paradigm is that most teachers likely see themselves as part of a long tradition of “passing on our cultural genes” and sending young people to meet the future (Robinson). Consciously or unconsciously, they position themselves as the next generation of educators, previous generations of which have heretofore sent their students successfully into the future. Yet lest I sound as if I’m damning with faint praise, I want to be fair. Most educators do not maintain the same perspective as we’ve been privileged to attain by virtue of our interrogating and wrestling with the big picture. Most teachers are too bogged down in the day-to-day dynamics (read: survival) that “school reform” has wrought.
Indeed, hesitation to adopt the new paradigm could very well have to do with a much more down-to-earth reason: The amount of newness Education 2.0 and the learningweb require. When we stop to consider it, what element of our profession is not effected by digital and networked technologies? To truly, meaningfully onboard we need new theories, new equipment, new procedures and policies, new strategies and methodologies, new pedagogical and content knowledge, new relationships with all stakeholders, new workflows, just to name a few. Addressing even one of these can be costly and time-consuming. Becoming overwhelmed happens quickly and thoroughly. Fight, flight, or freeze responses are only natural and manifest as choosing to keep on with what is familiar and doing what one has been doing.
One of the elements of the old paradigm I believe ought to be preserved has to do with the use of professional, licensed teachers who have completed accredited teacher education programs and not gone through so-called “alternative certification”. While accredited programs in the US are not perfect and can stand to be improved, graduates still leave with far more pedagogical, developmental, and methodological knowledge than their “alt cert” counterparts. They provide the pedagogical elements that form the base of teacher practice. Individuals armed with only content knowledge and practical experience in a particular field do not possess such a base. That is not to say that there is no place for community artists and entrepreneurs in our schools. But the idealized “open staffing”, as Waks describes it, is a potential Pandora’s box of outsourcing that could gut the local teacher corps, not to mention how it will likely expose students to all kinds of unqualified individuals now enrobed in the title of “teacher”. Talk about a legitimacy crisis.
Scott Sternall articulated a sentiment in his commentary on the boards this week. “I wish Breck, Bonk, and even Waks would be honest with their evaluation of why their system has flaws.” There is a whiff of intellectual dishonesty to the mission of Education 2.0 revolutionaries — at least as they articulate it in our readings thus far. As I mentioned back in week 1, societies typically do not shift paradigms quickly. Institutions like schools, with roots that go to the core of societal beliefs, are not easily changed. We all know this. So when the treatise is written as if all we need to do is throw open the doors of our schools, invite the expert community in, slap a mobile device in every child’s hand, point them towards the internet, clap them on the shoulder and education is now reformed is disingenuous nearly to the point that the project cannot be taken seriously. This is a shame because several ideas here have merit, such as the demise of the factory school, the diploma crisis, and the many affordances of the learningweb and how schools, educators, students, and parents ought to be taking advantage of its affordances to once again make teaching and learning the joyous adventures they can and should be. Even Waks’s final chapter, “What Needs to Be Done”, is entitled to suggest he will finally give us some nuts and bolts for specifically how to bring his vision to fruition. Instead, after 211 pages, he delivers an anemic and gratuitous final 10 pages of little more than common sense advice for incorporating Education 2.0 elements into the factory school paradigm. Who knew paradigmatic shift could be ushered in so easily?
Paradigm Clash in CPS
The schools I work with generally keep their heads in the sand when it comes to the broader educational technology culture. The extent to which Web 2.0 and Education 2.0 are brought into the classroom is really up to individual teachers. While a few teachers allow students to use their phones with formative assessment tools like Kahoot!, all of the technology use I see is at the substitution and augmentation levels of the SAMR model of technology integration. None of the schools I work with evince a school-wide ICT policy or ICT culture. I still see far, far too many signs like those on the left in halls and classrooms. The schools I work with have mostly high performing teachers who “get it” So when the district gutted time for professional development and common planning, teachers were highly upset about how the cuts would undermine their planning efforts and instruction. Yet even as I suggested, demonstrated, and mapped out how the collaboration features in GAFE (which all CPS teachers have access to) could be used for asynchronous planning and how with them we could still accomplish most of our goals, I met fierce pushback from teachers saying they were not working on their own time and “for free”. Frustratingly, such mindsets show how completely embedded they still are in the factory school model and school reform thinking.
Education 2.0 in My Consulting Practice
As an education consultant, much of my work is defined by technology Leveraging Web 2.0 as much as possible is how I remain present with and connected to my teachers and administrators. Zoom video meetings, Google Classroom, pushing asynchronous work, using cloud-based apps, built-in collaboration features in Google Docs for curriculum mapping, advocating for and hosting Twitter chats, demonstrating the use of social media as learning tools, using Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Google+ as ways to extend my PLN and PLN’s of teachers I work with are all ways I’ve extended the new paradigm into my work and that of the teachers I work with. Lest I sound like the model “Coach 2.0”, however, I still have a long way to go in incorporating these tools more seamlessly and automatically.
In general, the Education 2.0 paradigm provides many opportunities to use technology to transform what I do as an ed consultant. Mostly those opportunities have to do with my work. Increasingly, though, as I get used to a new app or process, I am able to draw individual teachers and administrators into the same process. It’s a little sly, admittedly. Sneaky even. Sneaky like a fox!
RSA ANIMATE and Sir Kenneth Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms [Video file]. (2010, October). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms/discussion
Waks, L. J. (2016). Education 2.0: The learningweb revolution and the transformation of the school. New York, NY: Routledge.