So if you agree that social Web technologies are causing some fundamental, “tectonic shifts” (Shirky) to many traditional structures in our global society, that businesses and media companies and political organizations are being forced to reinvent themselves in some pretty profound ways because of the ways we can network and connect, then this snip about the music business from Seth Godin’s book “Tribes” should resonate:
The first rule the music business failed to understand is that, at least at first, the new thing is rarely as good as the old thing was. If you need the alternative to be better than the status quo from the very start, you’ll never begin. Soon enough, the new thing will be better than the old thing. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late. Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing that it’s going to be here forever. It won’t. (93)
Think education instead of music.
Then, consider this:
When the world changes, the rules change. If you insist on playing today’s games by yesterday’s rules, you’re stuck. (114)
The safer you play your plans for the future, the riskier it actually is. That’s because the world is certainly, definitely, and more than possibly changing. (111)
Godin talks about all of this in the context of leadership, of how important it is for leaders to fight through their fears, to actively seek ideas worth criticism, to fear the status quo. Fear is the reason we don’t change either individually or systemically. And I love the way he puts this:
In every organization, everyone rises to the level at which they become paralyzed with fear. (44)
I know we talk about this ad nauseum, the fears that educators have and what to do about them. And I know the answers aren’t easy. The problem is when the music industry gets paralyzed it loses profits. When the education system goes that route, we lose kids.
One last quote:
“Established 1906” used to be important. Now, apparently, it’s a liability. (17)
(Photo “Yellow Crowd” by TwOsE.)
Karen Richardson says
I’m listening to Tribes right now and the most memorable idea for me about leadership had to do with being comfortable…if you’re not uncomfortable in your leadership, then you’re not really leading was the essence of the quote.
Jennifer Dorman says
“When the world changes, the rules change. If you insist on playing todayâ€™s games by yesterdayâ€™s rules, youâ€™re stuck.”
This is a terrific quote and one that unfortunately typifies many educational institutions, especially K-12.
Both of my grandparents worked for Royal Typewriter in Hartford, CT. At their peak, Royal competed with just about every typewriter company in the world and their products were considered to be the industry standard. Unfortunately, they make the decision not to explore the emerging market of personal computers until it was too late and their competitors, like IBM, were dominating the market.
Needless to say, both of my grandparents lost their jobs at Royal and, when you search for Royal Typewriter online, you will see lots of antique and museum websites . . .
It is my genuine fear that K-12 education will go the way of Royal if they don’t begin to make the transformative shift. The fear factor is certainly pervasive and is a ready argument, but I fear that the lag is due more to the fact that many administrators simply don’t see the value in the collaborative publishing platforms that Web 2.0 offers. They view these technologies as “disruptive” to the traditional process of learning and fail to recognize that our students ARE learning through this media.
We need more voices like yours, Will, to help convince them of the value of technology.
When I think education instead of music, I come to a different conclusion.
It’s too bad the new thing in education is “using data,” and not necessarily “using technology” (in the way that you imply). In that context, are you still so eager for everyone to jump on the bandwagon and “change”?
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment, John. If the change is perceived as using data instead of forming and growing learning communities then, no, I’m not eager. Is data really the new thing, though?
“The term momentum is a physics concept. Any object with momentum is going to be hard to stop. To stop such an object, it is necessary to apply a force against its motion for a given period of time. The more momentum which an object has, the harder that it is to stop. Thus, it would require a greater amount of force or a longer amount of time or both to bring such an object to a halt. As the force acts upon the object for a given amount of time, the object’s velocity is changed; and hence, the object’s momentum is changed.”
Data may not be the new thing but it certainly is the current thing. Collecting data and data-driven pedagogies are the objects with momentum in education now. Can using technology to form and grow learning communities bring data’s momentum to a halt? I believe so but in what amount of time?
In NYC, teachers are being barraged with it. NYC is not always considered on the leading edge of education movements. But in this case, I suspect it is. Some of the indicators (to me) that using data is the next big thing:
*NYC Chancellor Joel Klein was in the running for Secy. of Ed.
*NYCDOE (Dept. of Ed.) spends $80 million to build a data aggregating system called ARIS
*NYCDOE creates a school report card system that assesses a schools’ performance based primarily (85%) on state Math and ELA scores in comparison to other schools.
*NYCDOE creates a teacher report card system that measures each teachers’ “value add” with regard to student performance on state Math and ELA exams as compared to similar teachers with similar students (Teachers are really concerned about this)
*NYCDOE dissolves the Office of Instructional Technology and shifts personnel and Title IID $$ (most likely) to training teachers on how to use these new systems
Oh, and check out the latest issue of Education Leadership – every article is about data…
I have to agree with John on the point that “data” at least in my state, seems to be where school leaders are going with technology and not as a way to grow learning communities.
I just recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Micheal Pollan and think that his writing on the “organic” food movement has many ties to schools, organizations, and the future. Although Whole Foods marketplaces was once seen as a leader in the organic food movement, they have since become pretty mainstream, but at the same time have moved closer to the industrial food model and away from many of their early ideals.
The one thing I fear is that the underlying ideas around schooling and education may lead us always away from the type of change some of us are hoping for and towards more of the same: More efficient, and easier to quantify learning.
J. D. Wilson, Jr. says
I like what Elaine May said, “The only safe thing is to take a chance.”
“The first rule the music business failed to understand is that, at least at first, the new thing is rarely as good as the old thing was.”
This is misleading. Although it may not have been “better” from the industry’s standpoint, the new thing was definitely better for consumers than the old thing, or else no one would have used it. If they had been focusing on providing quality service to their customers, they would have immediately recognized that the new way was better for many people.
If a school waits to update technology until they decide it’s better, they are failing. Schools need to ask honestly what’s going to work best for students.
Mickey Bumpus says
Great comments and thoughts. I will be checking out “Tribes”. Our schools need to read this it seems. The music industry and education comparison is perfect. This is so very relevant to the course I’m taking on blogs and wikis.
Terry Elliott says
I agree and I think we need to counter this fear with its only known antidote–love. Not the sappy, Valentine’s day kind, but the strong passionate kind which feels the fear, but rolls over it. We cannot move worlds if our our lever is balanced on fear.
Trevor Goedert says
Change is the new condition that all in public education should strive to accomplish. We can no longer pull out our old folder of lesson plans and plug them into today’s classroom and expect the same results. many of the kids in my class were in the third grade when I first started teaching. How can I expect students of the Facebook generation to understand a lesson created for a pre-digital generation?