Our understanding and definition of the purpose of education will undergo inevitable change in order to reflect the transformational times we live in. No single approach will be good enough to meet the needs of our learners and no single approach should dictate those needs. Our conception of success will need to be better understood and defined beyond school in the light of a clearer recognition of humanity’s predicament. There are no losers in this equation, no feared compromise of academic rigor. What could be more rigorous than insisting that learning has a purpose that goes beyond college admissions? Success is no longer about individual competition or linear thinking about qualifications. It is about what is vital for our planet, our communities, our relationships, and ourselves to thrive. These are inextricably connected ideas and a renewed narrative about how our schools are dedicated to this inspiring conception of success can and will guide the future of education and society.
There is no mystical language required when we consider meaningful learning, just quality relationships between students, teachers, and parents. We should beware of educational jargon. Too often, it signifies the sleight of hand of the dubious magician, the false marketing of the edtech industry, or the unfortunate attraction to mumbo jumbo of those who should know better.
Our vulnerability as a society has been exposed. The inclination to place each aspect of the learning process into the neat compartments of an age-old system can’t simply be returned to without a significant re-think. We have to view our current circumstance as an opportunity to reconsider where we have been with a greater capacity for agility, imagination, and resilience going forward. This may not be a one-off disruption. A new value proposition will emerge. It is clear that we need to take better care of the planet, ourselves, and each other. This requires change. The possibility that we might fail to reflect on these needs seems unimaginable right now. Let’s hope we do not lose this opportunity to complacency or fear.
Consider a traditional curriculum document. Almost all of these belong to another world and continue to be written today in the same fashion. There is little here in the ornate, self-indulgent language of the esoteric that is designed to help teachers do their jobs well. These sacred texts are rarely designed for the learner, yet there appears to be a subliminal effort put into ensuring that parents will be bewildered by an encounter.
Let’s imagine what learning can be, not how we can run it to scale with organisational and industry needs driving the agenda.Learning should be by design, not product.
There are three points about the risks of what ISTE deployed at their conference to know: (1) the ‘smart badge’ is a really effective locator beacon, transmitting signals that are trivial to intercept and read, (2) you can’t turn it off, and (3) most people I spoke to had no idea how it worked. (I freaked out more than a few people by telling them what their badge number was by reading it from my phone. Most of those incidents ended up with ‘smart badges’ being removed and destroyed.)
Downloading a free mobile app, as I did, an attacker could easily track a specific badge and be notified when it goes out of or comes into range. With little technical skill, an attacker could use it to approach someone outside of the convention center (at a bar or restaurant or tourist attraction) and by employing social engineering techniques attempt to gain their trust. I myself was able to identify that there were over a dozen ISTE conference participants on my train platform on Wednesday morning bound for Chicago O’Hare. When one ISTE participant entered my train car at a later stop, that was trivial to identify. While there were no other ISTE participants on my flight back to the DC area, I located two badges in the baggage claim area (likely packed in someone’s luggage or carry-on).
Audrey Watters suggests that, “ISTE has helped here to normalize surveillance as part of the ed-tech experience. She suggests that it is only time that this results in abuse. Mike Crowley wonders why in a post-GDPR world attendees are not asked for consent? If this is the future, then maybe Levin’s ‘must-have’ guide will be an important read for everyone.
There is probably little doubt that the analysis of data will play an increasing role in teacher recruitment. I am sure that among the companies involved in the development of such platforms there are many good people with solid beliefs and values, individuals who will want to see these systems used in conjunction with personal connections, interviews, and relationships. In other words, in very humane ways, using the algorithm as a guide, not a decision-maker, and this is where biometric data may prove initially attractive. The question, of course, with all “data-driven” initiatives lies not so much with the intent or even the veracity of the data collected, but with how it is used. Data can too easily become the decision-making tool of lazy convenience and ends up being used in ways never intended. When I consider my teaching colleagues, I recoil at the prospect of viewing them as data points. Someone needs to shout stop.