What do you get when you combine education with the books Here Comes Everybody and Wikinomics, with Lego, Saddleback Church, new ideas, a website for solving problems, failure, and a mining corporation? Let's put them in the Education Innovation blender and see?
Adding to my previous posts (1 and 2) on what I call the Open Model of Education. Why is the open model so powerful? Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, discussed the advantages of open models. In this case, open source movements. Open source movements have several powerful advantages that education could leverage to improve itself.
One advantage of the open source movement is that it is not an organization in the typical sense. It doesn’t have employees, it doesn’t make capital investments, and it doesn’t control resources. The advantage is that it highly tolerant of failure. Open source reduces the cost of failure because so many ideas are brought to the table.
“…open source relies on the ‘publish-then-filter’ pattern. In traditional organizations, trying anything is expensive, even if just in staff time to discuss the idea, so someone must make some attempt to filter the successes from the failures in advance. In open systems, the cost of trying something is so low that handicapping the likelihood of success is often an unnecessary distraction.”
In the Closed Model of Education that I have discussed previously, education is limited because the ideas that a school or district can consider can come from only a limited number of sources, usually teachers, administrators, and consultants. A great deal of thought must be put into the consideration of ideas because the time and cost of failure are so high. Time spent with meetings, staff training, and materials, has a cost. This means the filter for ideas is very high. Only those ideas that seem to have the most benefit will be implemented, though there is no way to know in advance that one of the ideas picked will bring the desired benefit, and one of the ideas left on the table could be the most effective and beneficial.
The Open Model of Education draws its ideas from a greater number of sources, including, and most importantly, the student. A wider net is cast for ideas, more ideas are implemented, and the ones that work will receive more resources, while the ones that fail can be quickly dropped. Because resources are only directed at proven ideas, this model essentially allows failure to cost nothing. Failure for free. But the chance of coming upon a better idea is increased due to the shear number of sources and ideas.
“Open system, by reducing the cost of failure, enable their participants to fail like crazy, building on the successes as they go.”
The open system has the advantage of exploring multiple possibilities.
“…the idea is that for any problem or goal, there is a vast area of possibilities to explore but few valuable spots within that environment to discover. When a company or indeed any organization finds a strategy that works, the drive to adopt it and stick with it is strong. Even if there is a better strategy out there, finding is can be prohibitively expensive.”
Our current Closed Model of Education is clearly locked into a few strategies and models that drive everything. Teaching takes place at a designated place and time, and it provided by designated people.
The Open Model of Education blends the sources of teaching to focus on the learning of the student. Learning, as opposed to teaching, can take place anywhere, at anytime, and can be provided by many people. It is this system that can bring many more ideas to the table. The current education system judges many ideas on whether that idea fits within the current construct of the education system. If the idea does not fit, the idea is not adopted. Those ideas that are adopted have been severely filtered in the hopes on ensuring success.
Another consideration is that most of the sources of ideas have the same training, subscribe to the same "best practices", share many of the same experiences, and view education from the same perspective. In other words, education is almost too homogenous in its perspectives and mindsets. This the effect of limiting the number of fresh and original ideas that are brought to the table. Too much of the same.
The Open Model of Education, or Clay Shirky’s open system, allow for many more participants, lowers the filtering of ideas, and is much more tolerant of failure because of the flexibility of the system. Ideas that fail are dropped instantly, and new ones adopted. It would be hard to say that failed ideas are dropped as quickly in education. Usually failed ideas have personnel attached to them, causing union issues, and resources that have been purchased, and possible even capital costs. This makes ideas difficult to drop on a dime.
Further because the Open Model allows participants from many areas to participate, the chances of great ideas and solutions are increased. In the book Wikinomics: How Mass Collboration Changes Everything, the authors describe in detail how organizations from Lego to mining corporation Goldcorp have opened their systems to the public and reaped the benefits that come from this openness. Websites like Innocentive.com open problems up to others to help solve and give cash rewards. Could you imagine what would happen if education opened itself to the public and gave cash rewards for great ideas? Saddleback Church says to its member, if you have an idea, let’s do it. They offer help where they can, but they allow the member to come up with and implement the idea. One member had an idea for a ministry from people struggling with addictions. That ministry has become a worldwide ministry called Celebrate Recovery. Other ideas went nowhere and failed. But in allowing many ideas, having a low filter, they hit upon one of the most successful ministry ideas in recent years. It is the organizational model and mindset that is described in Wikinomics and displayed in Goldcorp, Lego, and Saddleback Church that education should look to.
The Closed System of Education does not tolerate failure, therefore restricting the quality and quantity of ideas and the chance for a superior idea. The Open Model of Education is much more tolerant of failure which results in a greater number of ideas and a greater chance of finding the superior idea.
How might you come at this issue from a different direction to get a different response? What underlying principles are at work here?
In what ways could you shake the thinking of those in the education establishment? What might this look like?
What examples could you substitute to get your message across?
In what areas do you see opportunity for developing more openness in your school or your district?
Who is going to resist these ideas? How can you prepare for and mitigate their resistance?
Who is going to support these ideas? How can you leverage their support of these ideas?
Where could you focus your energy and ideas to make change?
In what ways could you use the disadvantages for of the Closed Model as advantages for support of the Open Model?
If your school or district were to be transformed into an Open Model school or district, could you let go of the past and adopt the new way of thinking? Does you answer impact your thinking or support for either model?
What problems might more openness create?