Education Ecosystem – Part I

This is the first in a series of posts in which I’d like for us to think really carefully about “education” and the role it plays in a society.

So, pretty lightweight stuff.

But if we’re going to think in terms of “reforming” education, and consider how we might do that – or if it can even be done – we owe it to ourselves to examine some fundamental principles.

Among those principles – foremost, in my mind – is its ecosystem. An ecosystem can be considered “a..community, and its … environment.” (Lifted, selectively, from our friends a Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecosystem)

Like every other ecosystem, education exists within the flotsam and jetsam of its age and place. Its “community” and its “environment” intermingle and determine the effectiveness of its outcome.

I think it’s safe to assert, given all the conversation about “reforming” education and the distinct efforts to move away from a “19th century” model, we’re collectively not real crazy about the “outcome” we’re getting from our otcome-based education system.

If we think about education from an ecosystem perspective, one of the first things we should establish is its position, its place in the overall social organism.

Where does education fit? What is its role? I’m going to share my working definition of education:

“Education is the means by which people are prepared to survive and thrive in the world they will inhabit.”

It’s a high level description, by design. It lets us think of everything we do to help people “survive and thrive” as education. And it lets us evaluate the point of any “education” that does not contribute to people’s surviving and or thriving “in the world they will inhabit.”

Education, by this standard, must prepare people to “survive and thrive” in a world of:
– almost constant change
– breathtaking technological progress
– limited static resources (I did not say “limited resources.” There is a huge difference)
– access to information so great as to be overwhelming
– creation of new information – and reorganization of information – on a colossal scale
– global competition
– automation and mechanization
– miniaturization on every front
– shifting social compacts favoring independence over size

Think about how these very real factors of education’s ecosystem – it’s “community” if you will – have changed in just the past 5 years.

Have even the most progressive “education” organizations kept apace?

“Well, we offer our courses online!” whoop de doo

“We’ve shifted to ‘challenge based learning’!” Small progress is better than none.

“We’ve lengthened the school day!” Oh, yay. It doesn’t work, so let’s do MORE of it.

The ecosystem has changed. Radically. And that shift you feel beneath your feet is the ecosystem changing again. Today. It’ll change again tomorrow. Even more profoundly.

Can we keep up?

That’s just one of the questions we should be asking ourselves. I’ll share a few more in the next installment of this series.

Thanks for playing along.