recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : efficience   3

Will · We’re Trying To Do “The Wrong Thing Right” in...
[Also here: https://medium.com/@willrich45/we-re-trying-to-do-the-wrong-thing-right-in-schools-210ce8f85d35#.g134rm67t ]

"Whenever I think about the way most schools are structured today, I always come back to the same question: Do we do the things we do because they’re better for kids or because they are easier for us? For instance: separating kids by age in school. Is that something we do because kids learn better that way? Or do we do it because it’s just an easier way organizing our work? I think all of us know the answer to that. And there are quite a few other comparisons like those that are worth thinking about:

• Do kids learn better when we separate out the content into different subjects, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better when we have every one of them pretty much go through the same curriculum in the same way, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better when we have them turn off all of their technology in school, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better when we we assess them all the same way, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better when we decide what they should learn and how they should learn it, or is it just easier for us?
• Do kids learn better in 50 or 90 minute blocks, or is it just easier for us?

To be sure, these are not new questions, nor are they unique to my thinking. Many of us in the edu online community have been writing about these things for years. As with much of the “we need to change schools” conversation, it’s another part of the repeatedly articulated argument that appeals to common sense but hasn’t much moved the needle when it comes do doing things any differently in schools.

So why bring it up yet again? Well, for me at least, two words: Russell Ackoff.

A couple of weeks ago, thanks to some serendipitous surfing online, I came across this 10-minute snip of an interview with Ackoff, a pioneer in the field of systems thinking who was a professor at the Wharton School prior to his death in 2009. I was staggered a bit after watching it because he was able to articulate something I have been feeling for a while now but had been unable to find the words for:
“Peter Drucker said ‘There’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing.’ Doing the right thing is wisdom, and effectiveness. Doing things right is efficiency. The curious thing is the righter you do the wrong thing the wronger you become. If you’re doing the wrong thing and you make a mistake and correct it you become wronger. So it’s better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. Almost every major social problem that confronts us today is a consequence of trying to do the wrong things righter.”

Here’s the video. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzS5V5-0VsA ]

I’ve been thinking about Ackoff pretty much consistently since I watched it, and the application of that lens to our current practice in schools is profound. Can there be a more apt example of trying to “do the wrong thing right” than in schools? Look again at that list above. Are we in search of efficiency, or effectiveness?

I think the answer is obvious. If you watch the clip, you’ll hear Ackoff dive into the education issue head on. He says, and I agree, that the system is not about learning (effectiveness). It’s about teaching (efficiency). And believe me, I understand why we have that focus. Given our devotion to an overstuffed curriculum, standardized tests, “college and career readiness” and more, about the only way we can see our students navigating the school experience is to “teach” it, to organize it, pace it, and assess it in some way that allows us to confer the adjective “educated” to each student. This despite the obvious truth that the vast majority of what we “learn” in school is quickly forgotten, and the truest “education” for our life’s work comes on the job, not in school.

Sadly, “doing the right thing” for our kids in schools is difficult. In education, our structures, our histories, our nostalgia for trying to do the “wrong thing right” runs deep. Regardless of how we got here (and the story is complex [http://hackeducation.com/2015/04/25/factory-model ],) we are profoundly wedded to what now constitutes this “education system” that dominates our learning world. The roles and expectations of students and teachers and administrators and parents are so clearly reinforced by our own experience, our cultural representations, and by those who have millions of dollars invested in the status quo that any serious suggestion that we might be doing the “wrong thing” is simply layered over by a new initiative, a new technology, a new curriculum, or a new success story to avoid having to grapple with the more fundamental question.

But that will not work for much longer. The contexts for learning and education have changed. As Ackoff says in his book Turning Learning Right Side Up [http://www.amazon.com/Turning-Learning-Right-Side-Education/dp/0132887630/ ]:
There is no way that the vast majority of teachers, whatever their training, can ever hope to match in their classrooms what students can receive at will from sources of their own choosing (14).

Unfortunately, the vast majority of schools I’ve visited continue to try to do the “wrong thing right.” While few teachers or administrators really believe that learning happens best when kids are grouped by age, or when they are all forced to learn the same things on the same day in the same way, or when we chop up what we’ve chosen for the content into 50-minute periods and different subjects, we do that stuff anyway. And, if you look at the recent Gallup survey of engagement [http://www.gallup.com/services/189926/student-poll-2015-results.aspx ] of almost 1 million students across the US, trying to do the “wrong thing right” is having devastating consequences. Of high school juniors, just 32% say they are “involved and enthusiastic” in school, 17% say they have fun at school, 17% say they “get to do what they do best,” and 16% say they “will invent something that changes the world.”

Read those numbers again, and ask yourself can we possibly be doing the right thing? Can we possibly label our current practices as “effective?”

As with most addictions, the first step to changing this is to admit we have a problem. The signs that we are reaching “peak education” in the traditional system are becoming more and more apparent by the day. (More about that in a later post.) And while I’m not naive enough to suggest that policy makers and vendors and many educators are at all ready to begin the process of moving away from a focus on efficiency toward a focus on effectiveness, that shouldn’t stop individual teachers or school systems from starting down that path.

Doing the right thing in schools starts with one fairly straightforward question: What do you believe about how kids learn most powerfully and deeply in their lives? Once you’ve answered that as an individual and as a school community, the question that follows is does your practice in classrooms with kids honor those beliefs? In other words, if you believe that kids learn best when they have authentic reasons for learning, when their work lives in the world in some real way, when they are pursuing answers to questions that they themselves find interesting, when they’re not constrained by a schedule or a curriculum, when they are having fun, and when they can learn with other students and teachers, then are you giving priority to those conditions in the classroom? Are you acting on your beliefs?

I’m working with districts where this is the root question, and where the answer is the fundamental driver for every decision made within the system. It’s a recognition that the roles and responsibilities of the system have irrevocably changed due to the shifts in the world we’ve seen over the last two decades. And it’s also a recognition that we have to approach our work with children from an entirely different angle than what we are accustomed to. But make no mistake, it’s a long, difficult process of change to endure.

This is not the first time in our history that we’ve faced such a seismic shift in our needs regarding schools and education. As Ackoff writes:
Here, a culture declaring itself to be the protector of individual liberty, and affording seemingly boundless opportunities for the expression of personal freedom, the challenge of creating a large, docile population that would accept the dominance of the factory system in their lives was enormous. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, it became clear that the only way to succeed with industrializing (and hence modernizing) this country was to find a way to break the inherently free human spirit during childhood (Kindle 177.)

As we are confronted with “modernizing” this country once again, it’s a focus on that “inherently free human spirit during childhood” that is once again at the core of our work. But instead of finding ways to break that spirit in children, this time around we must “do the right thing” and allow it to flourish in profound and beautiful ways for learning."
2016  willrichardson  russellackoff  peterdrucker  unschooling  deschooling  learning  education  schools  schooldesign  lcproject  openstudioproject  howwelearn  teaching  efficience  data  childhood  children  school  agesegregation  disciplines  interdisciplinary  efficiency  edtech  politics  policy  schedules  scheduling  assessment  curriculum  sfsh 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Click Here to Save Education: Evgeny Morozov and Ed-Tech Solutionism
"This flight from thinking and the urge to replace human judgments with timeless truths produced by algorithms is the underlying driving force of solutionism. Bruno Latour distinguishes between “matters of facts,” the old unrealistic way of presenting all knowledge claims as stable, natural, and apolitical, and “matters of concern,” a more realistic mode that recognizes that knowledge claims are usually partial and reflect a particular set of problems, interests, and agendas. For Latour, one way to reform our political system is to acknowledge that knowledge is made of matters of concern and to identify all those affected by such matters; the proliferation of self-tracking—and the displacement of thinking by numbers—risks forever grounding us in the matters-of-fact paradigm. Once we abandon thinking for optimizing, it becomes much more difficult not only to enact but to actually imagine possible reforms of the system being “measured” and “tracked.”"

“Technostructuralists,” he argues, “view information technologies ‘neither as technologies of freedom nor of tyranny but primarily as technologies of power that lock into existing or emerging technostructures of power.’ Thus, any given technology is allowed to centralize and decentralize, homogenize and pluralize, empower and disempower simultaneously.”

"I’ve been told quite often that I’m too negative. Too critical. Too unsupportive of education technology entrepreneurship. Too loud. Too mean. And lately, I’ve wanted to retort, "Maybe. But I’m no Evgeny Morozov” — even though, truth be told, I think ed-tech desperately needs one. Ed-tech, once so deeply grounded in progressive educational theory and practice, has been largely emptied of both."
audreywatters  2013  evgenymorozov  technology  solutionism  technosolutionism  education  mattersoffacts  mattersofconcern  criticalthinking  quantifiedself  knowledge  brunolatour  optimization  efficience  scale  questions  questioning  edtech  technostructuralism  kevinkelly  janmcgonigal  jeffjarvis  clayshirky  timoreilly  timwu  books  problemsolving  problemdefining 
march 2013 by robertogreco
A Physicist Turns the City Into an Equation - NYTimes.com ["According to data, when a city doubles in size, every measure of economic activity increases by approximately 15% per capita.]
One quote:

“A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he says. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.” 
urban  urbanism  geoffreywest  cities  corporations  growth  physics  modeling  models  energy  density  efficience  freedom  remkoolhaas  planning  policy  economics  self-control  short-termmemory  memory  architecture  design  urbantheory  urbanscience  theory  science  data  census  walking  transportation  patternrecognition  patterns  math  mathematics  infrastructure  jonahlehrer  organic  organisms  consumption  metabolism  sustainability  interaction  janejacobs  collaboration  crosspollination  robertmoses  efficiency 
december 2010 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read