So Leigh Blackall points to “The Personal MBA“, a “pdf version of a pay for text that guides people through an equivalent curriculum to a MBA.” It’s basically a reading list of all sorts of good stuff, from George Leonard’s “Mastery” (which I really need to read again) to “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki. It’s billed as an experiment in educational entrepreneurism, a way to save about $100,000 and still get the knowledge you need to succeed in business. Does it work? Well, I think the better question is “Can it work?” And to that, I would say, absolutely. Yes.
As Leigh points out, it won’t just work by reading the books in isolation. You’ll probably get a lot smarter, but you need the conversations and connections that the expensive MBA offers as well. So, Leigh says, leverage the social technologies we have at hand:
Enter a networked learning model to support this text perhaps. A way for people who are using this text to make contact and communicate about their efforts. Clearly the information doesnâ€™t change all that much, but the packaging (and the fees) change considerably. Is this the niche that traditional education ought to be looking at more closely? I think so.
I think so too. I don’t think there is any doubt that it is possible if you are motivated to learn and have the network building and organizing skills to pull it off. And it doesn’t hurt when the guys putting out the free curriculum build a site around it where folks can connect. As I know I say here a lot, we can build our own classrooms, find our own teachers, writing our own flexible texts and curricula as we go. Right now, everyone still gets hung up on the creds, I know. But we’re already seeing disruptions in that thinking. In this world, what you can do is a better assessment of what you know.
On a similar note, I’ve been struck by the mostly inside the box thinking about teaching and classrooms that’s been running through the responses on my recent post and on Clay’s post that spurred it. There are passionate defenses of teaching and classrooms and the importance of being with kids, all of them absolutely genuine and valid. For instance, Mark Ahlness says:
But this is what keeps me going: The 9:00 bell. That’s when the kids come in the door. Thank goodness for the kids. There, I’ve said it again…But that 9:00 bell keeps ringing. For one year my kids and I will have an incredible experience. Nobody can take that away from us, and my kids will remember.
I know a lot of teachers feel like that. I used to feel like that when I was teaching. The presence of Mark and others like him in our kids lives will always be important. But here is the thing. In the midst of the quote above, Mark writes:
Yes, it kills me when I see dysfunction in my educational system. Yes, it breaks my heart when I see 4th and 5th graders not using, and losing, the incredible tech skills they had in my classroom. Yes, it is incredibly frustrating when absolutely nothing I have tried in over a decade of encouraging technology use with my colleagues has made a bit of difference.
What jumps out at me here and many of those other responses is that despite what the system takes away from good teaching, few write about teaching as if it is something that can be done just as meaningfully outside of the system. That’s obviously what Clay is struggling with. And it’s what my brain continues to be chewing on. How can we start to think differently about teaching? How can we teach in meaningful, important ways outside of the current construct? How can we give good teachers the opportunity to teach without the inconsistencies and constraints of the system? And how do we do it in ways that can still serve all of the kids the system currently serves?
That last one is the really tough one…