Posts Tagged ‘Crisis’

00329 History of Education – 5 Act Play

April 1, 2010

Economic History => Future

A recent Op-Ed by David Brooks* NY Times lamented the lack of a comprehensive history of modern economics, based on the stunning consequences of the recent events. His framework for this history is in five Acts.

Act I. Economic man was a crude representation of individual human nature who was totally rational and only interested in maximizing his personal benefit. During my late 1970’s MBA I took several economic courses, ran econometric models, and was always one variable away from solutions that matched the data. We actually used humans with quantified util’s as part of the utility functions and had grand arguments.

Act II. During the past several decades, Herbert Simon addressed not-perfectly rational people, and Gary Becker saw behaviors that were not just self interest, like having children. Others saw that people have biases, and many make non-objective decisions.

Act III. Is a discontinuity with the economic crisis of 2008-2009. The incredibly sophisticated econometric/financial models built over the decades failed to predict the wiping out of $50 trillion in global wealth and the huge human suffering that followed.

Act IV. is starting with soul searching that is far from a consensus on why the economic intellectual agenda-setters failed to see the oncoming train wreck. In the physical sciences, real problems are solved and stay solved. In economics, thinkers cycle in and out of fashion. Economists are now talking about the individual, love, virtue, social relationships and imagination!

Act V. David Brooks predicts that the current field of rational economics will be blown-up. Human beings cannot be addressed with universal laws like physics. It will become a subsection of history and moral philosophy focusing on individuals within contexts. The lessons learned will be one by one, like art, not science.

Education History => Future

Any lesson’s to learn for educational transformation from the economics’ meltdown? Probably not since Brook’s history is over a few years, and education’s a few century. But let’s walk along the path of economics anyway and lay in education at their milestones.

Act I. Early 1700’s: Prussians founded the highly structured lecture, recitation, seat-work system for the select group of aristocratic youth.

Act II. Late 1800’s: This model one-size-fits-all factory like system was applied to all children through universal education.

Act III. Middle of the 2000th century the system expanded to meet expectations that women, minorities and special needs children should also graduate. There was a significant increase in funding for all education with the major gains in special education. The education crisis emerged over 2 decades not the 2 years for the economic crisis.  Academic performance gains stagnated in the mid 1970’s. In 1980’s the system was shocked to learn that the Iron Curtain countries were out-performing American schools by a significant margin. The final blow came from a Bolivian immigrant Jaime Escalante who transformed L.A.’s tough Garfield High School. He blew away the myth that inner-city kids can not perform at the highest levels (movie: Stand and Deliver). He graduated more advanced placement Calculus students than all but four other U.S. high schools.

Act IV. The initial reactions were reforms and restructuring that moved the deck chairs but did not focus on hard issues. Innovations such as charter schools, choice, career ladders, No Child Left Behind, etc. were tried by many states but success was fleeting. Summative testing to standards is becoming a piece of the solution. But as any industrial quality expert knows the only way to have quality products out the door is heavy investment in design, training and equipment investment for all aspects of the cycle. After three decades of action academic performance and graduation rates remain flat. Society’s demands for job and college ready students, 21st century critical thinking and a globally competitive economy have soared. Fortunately ideas with broad and significant success factors such as eLearning, individualized instruction, digital content, teacher-student centered focus, mastery not seat time funding, online learning, and personal learning plans have started to emerge.

Act V. The 21st century will not see a blow-up of K-12 education like David Brooks’ forecast for the economics field. I believe the coming transformation from the factory model of the Prussians to massively-individualized education is definitely in the cards. This transformation will be shaped by the decades-old Benjamin Bloom studies of the tutor-student relationship and the individualization methods for gifted and other special education students from the 1970’s. Serving moral, social and emotional yearnings and ambitions of individual students will be the driving factor bringing renewed growth of both academic achievement and graduation rates.

The most import lesson from the economic tragedy is that the focus of education must not be on the “school” but rather on the multifaceted context of the student. Of course, this is not news to any successful teacher. Like Jaime Escalante they know how to ward off the Prussian structure to serve the needs of their individual students.

*: David Brooks, Op-Ed  The Return of History New York Times, March 25, 2009

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00215 AZ Republic Ed Vision — Imperatives & How Tos

February 15, 2010

Arizona Republic’s 2020 Vision For Arizona

Over the past four Sunday’s, and on into the next two Sunday’s, the Arizona Republic has dedicated 4 to 5 pages to addressing Arizona’s future. The five weekly issues selected are elements of the vision: economic strategy, government reform, improving education, the state budget and rethinking the boarder.

Their focus is on creating a Vision for 2020 and then recommending practical steps to change our current ways to reach the vision. Craig Barrett, former Intel Chairman and CEO set the stage with 10 steps to building a smarter Arizona with Smart People, Smart Ideas and Right Environment. The 10 are: K12-benchmarked curriculum and testing, K12 good teachers, K12 dropout prevention, funding for universities, college completion, fund Science Foundation Arizona and university research, focus on alternative energy R&D, state policies to promote investment in innovation, grow economy with high paying jobs and compare Arizona with global competitors, not neighboring states.

Economy: After addressing housing woes and leadership challenges, the baton was passed, on the following Sunday, to a sustained job-growth and economic strategy with three recommendations. Florida is cited as a model for creating a strategic plan for economic development. Arizona pioneered this statewide process in 1989-1992 with 3000 participants, $500,000 and SRI International. Florida modeled their Enterprise Florida process after ours and then did something differently. They followed, funded and updated the plan yearly. We let ours die on the vine.

Base industries concept, adopted by Florida and many other states, was also invented and modeled for Arizona’s use during our 1989-1992 planning process as industry clusters. Several clusters flourished since the early 1990’s including the Optics cluster in Tucson and the statewide Biotech cluster. The software cluster organization integrated several other clusters and renamed itself the Arizona Technology Council. The cluster organization superstructure from the Arizona Department of Commerce was disbanded about 6 years ago. Compared to other states, the ADC and other Arizona economic development organizations have few tools to attract and growth base companies.

Enterprise zones for companies to open in, or move into, empty commercial real estate will not only increase the quality of these facilities and provide employment but stop bleeding of high tech, hi paying jobs to other places.

Government: I could not find quality education => quality workforce => quality jobs => globally competitive economy in the Sunday sections. Let’s see how K12 fares in the Sunday focused on government. Right off, our 46th place in education is mentioned. The polls show that a high majority of Arizona folks want better education and only 10% polled felt their elected officials served them well. Other states such as Utah have a high level of collaboration and public meetings to shape public policy. Arizona’s population is highly involved in civic entrepreneurship compared to many states but the endgame of legislation and governance fails to implement their advocacy. The three changes recommended are: “abolish term limits and restore wisdom and experience to the statehouse (like Oregon), tune up the initiative process so it is not easily abused (like Utah), and give the governor authority over the largest part of state government” – education (like Florida).

Education: All three government fixes would greatly benefit the transformation of K-12 education. This Sunday’s paper started with Massachusetts is the model where the great need for research, academia, technology and medicine drove their K12 in the #1 performing state in the country. Arizona’s needs for construction, retail, sales and trades is much less demanding and allows us to coast at 43rd with low paying jobs, and not enough tax base to afford the Massachusetts funding for education. What to do??? The plan is to pull ourselves up by our boot straps. Parents (2 million), schools (2000) and policy makers (200) are admonished to change their ways: motivate their kids, transform their teaching, and create a new education system.

We have some assets for the job. Innovation delivers leadership in charter schools and every school can now be a virtual school. Teacher education: ASU has the largest education college in the nation and is transforming from legacy education to more current and future focused learning and technology. Improved graduation rates and student scores are slowly rising. Advocate organizations are many, highly capable, inclusive and working together. The Arizona Education Association advocates transitioning from compliance to professionalism so teachers can create the future leaders. Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC) is working on transforming school finance to bring financial decisions from the state level to the local level and reward leaders and teachers for performance. Florida grades their school from A to F and failure is not acceptable. “Beat the Odds” research specifies what principals need to know and do to become effective school leaders and use continuous student academic performance assessments to manage their schools.

Next two Sundays: Lets see what transpires in Budget and the Board.

Observations: So far I am very disappointed. This work of 2020 Vision has not produced a vision for 2020. For the Phoenix Futures Forum (PFF) circa 1990, Francine Hardaway created four clear visions full of imagery. They portray what greater Phoenix would look like if we took four different paths to the future. All four had their bright and shining future combined with dark and foreboding aspects from unintended consequences. It was grand graphic illustration of what would happen if the PFF plan resulted from just a sum of the parts proposed by community experts with narrow perspectives. What has been yet to be seen is the overall systems analysis for Vision 2020 that is required for any strategic plan that generates an implementation plan.

What I see is a general and specific flaw in this report. The general flaw is the mishmash of situation assessments, imperatives, and ideas supported by historical best practices instead of a systems approach. The specific flaw is the use of a blind eye that refuses to see the dramatic changes underway in a number of ecosystems including education. Just doing more, fixing the obvious, and rearranging the deck chairs may keep Arizona from falling behind. But to move up, in the state and global competitive arenas, will require a full understanding of the disruptive innovations underway and exploiting them. One is eLearning which is never mentioned except for a couple of passing comments of online learning.  Go figure.

00208 Crisis and Opportunity

February 8, 2010

There is some myth floating out there that the Chinese word for crisis also means opportunity. Maybe its true. With selective recognition of winners in the enterprise arena we have the following start up years and follow-on analysis*:

Proctor and Gamble: Panic of 1837

General Electric and IBM: Long Depression of 1873

Hyatt Hotels: Eisenhower Recession

Fed EX:  Oil Crisis

Microsoft and Apple: Bear Market 1974-75

We all know the saying, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.” Entrepreneurs view problems as business opportunities. As civic entrepreneurs we need to address the current economic situation with a burst of optimism and redouble our efforts.

Just after the last crisis peaked the most successful businesses had 3 times the growth during 2000-2003 as their slowest counterparts. During our current crisis from 2006-2009 there was little differentiation. But during 2009 the gap is starting to widen again. I know of no data to show that private sector models can apply to the public sector. But I do know that entrepreneurship works in both, with startup enterprises and the Peace Corps being prime illustrations of entrepreneurial success.

Assuming that governance of K-12 education might just fit this cycle, now is the time to push for innovation. Apple thinks so. With its blizzard of hype and fawning over the iPad, it has tapped a huge opportunity to lead businesses and consumers out of the crisis. Why and how? Because Apple has a system of applications, content and solution devices that can be readily adopted.

Microsoft has dominance in the legacy market. Apple is the disruptive innovation poised for rapid growth. Ed Tech is like the Microsoft partial solution and eLearning is like the Apple system solution.

The timing is right for the elearning approach to make the next great leap forward within K-12 education. Let’s assume the private sector models are right, and we can swing for the fences with our public sector challenge of eLearning transformation.

Note: With the Super Bowl behind us, I can switch to baseball analogies.

*Michael Moe, NeXt Up

00104 eLearning Decade

January 4, 2010

Although the prophets of doom are almost always wrong, we may be heading into troubling times. So a mantra I just made up should help:

Have No Fear, Its Happy New Year.

We have plenty to be fearful about over the next couple of decades. According to my current reading of a “true believer” book, The Fourth Turning, civilizations have 80 year cycles that are made up of four generations of 20 year cycles. The past three 80 year cycles ended in 20 year times of crisis (Revolutionary War, Civil War, and Depression-World War II).

But we also have plenty to look forward to. The historical set of 20 years of crisis and upheaval also had significant build-out of respective infrastructures (toll roads and canals, railroads, highways). In our times of crisis the new infrastructure will be broadband/Internet, digitized medial records, high speed trains, and security at all levels.

Over the past 20 years we have seen economic spasms, terrorism, and many opportunities ignored by “best and brightest” ideologues. But the current problems are at a “2” level and are a build up to the “10” level crisis we might expect in the future. Fortunately our “Fourth Turing” period will be lead by “smart and pragmatic” realists who are crucial for the challenges ahead.

So much for my “true believer“) hat (thank you Eric Hoffer. Let’s get back to today’s issues and eLearning. We assume that the skills, education and knowledge of Arizona’s people and leaders will continue to be its most essential asset. Over the past several months I have attended many meetings of Arizona leadership working on Arizona problems. For the first time most of their solutions for education included eLearning as the key to implementation.

The Arizona Republic’s 2010 predictions for the next decade has a section for education and technology:

Slim notebook, video lessons, learn at school-home, and individualized repetition learning to mastery and pace of progress. Math and science will have teacher-facilitator for multiage students at same academic level. Self-paced learning will have some students into full college work in highs school and others mastering the subjects at their slower pace before they move on. High school graduation will be a bit old-fashion.

Sounds like a pieces of a pretty good vision. Now it’s up to us as advocates to implement for Arizona. I have a New Year’s resolution to keep. Part is to produce a one page (+) blog for you each week. I will also provide updates on current upcoming events. The blog will represent a continually developing framework and direction for our advocacy. This will be based on developments within our highly fluid legislative policy groups, governance and legislators.