Trends and Roles in Education

Trends and Roles in Education
Tim Findlay
June 27 2013

The purpose of this Trends & Roles in Education blog is to
1. address seriously challenging pitfalls inherent in the high speed transformation of how we learn,
2. identify key factors within specific trends,
3. suggest how education leaders and teachers can alter their roles as adult educators for the benefit of learners in their charge.

In their sparest of essentials there are two trends impacting adult education:
1. Lifelong learning characterized by exploration in diversity and universality
2. A growing awareness of the need for an ethics-based set of core values – ground rules such as one might associate with being a responsible member of any community

To learn is to explore and experiment, compare, evaluate and conclude.
To be taught is to measure up to a set to a pre-configured standard of assessments
Willie Poe speaks up about the difference between the two and how he learned to learn.

Oscar Wilde had his own irreverent spin: “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
Sir Ken Robinson in his humour and eloquence notes that kids starting kindergarten now will be retiring in 2065. And he asks how we can be expected to know what the world will be like then if we don’t know what it’s going to be like five years from now. Relevance of higher education his focus:
There are lots of “irreverent” things said about the formalistic format of Education we are in the process of shedding – an earmark, a good thing, says Harvard’s Dr Howard Gardner, in his fourth of his Five Minds for the Future, of old concepts being challenged by the new.
The digital divide is already becoming a ruthless sorter of those who can make the leap to digital media literacy and those who have not. The prevailing trend in education is toward inclusiveness – universality. The challenge is to bridge the digital divide.

Circumstances call for decisions. Those circumstances are these:
1. The progress of technology so far has been outpacing our capacity to control it.
2. There is a need for the widest input from the greatest number of people too shape our future in what we could call a democratic way and an ethical way.
3. The ultimate goal of our technological development is to render the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
4. Greatest good for the greatest number of people implies some form of ethical structure.
That ethical structure calls for concept and definition; it calls for uptake and structural adaptation by education leaders; it calls for practical adaptation through collegial discussion for application by teachers, instructors and facilitators.
This way the concept of ethics can take hold in an age of technology

Howard Gardner, Harvard professor of education, blew the doors open when he published Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (H. Gardner. 1983. Harvard Business Press.). His focus is all about how we learn.
Naturalist Intelligence, Musical Intelligence, Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (Number/Reasoning Smart, Existential Intelligence, Interpersonal Intelligence, Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“Body Smart”), Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart), Intra-personal Intelligence (Self Smart”), Spatial Intelligence (“Picture Smart”)
Here, Professor Gardner creates the context of his eight or nine minds theory.

Up to that point only Logic-Linguistic intelligences were the determinants. Now, through Gardner’s insights the confined, traditional ways of thinking have been transformed to a wider perspective that embraces all types of learning as being not only worthy but legitimate.
Then Dr Gardner followed up with Five Minds for the Future (H. Gardner. 2007. Harvard Business Press)
The 5 minds for the future as set out by Gardner are:
1. The Disciplined Mind;
2. The Synthesizing Mind;
3. The Creating Mind;
4. The Respectful Mind; and
5. The Ethical Mind.
The Ethical Mind: Bingo, we have concept and definition. Next step is to adapt it to our lifelong learning.

The speed of change:
Forty years ago a decade didn’t declare its intentions until it was halfway through; then came Alvin Tofler with his Future Shock to say that the future was already here and there was reason to fear. From Wikipedia on the subject, this entry:
“Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society”. This change overwhelms people, he believed, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving people disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”—future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock he popularized the term “information overload.”

Then one no less than Neil Postman lent his own reservations about such rapid change, its social disconnect and society’s being able keep pace.
“In the introduction to an essay entitled “Future Shock” in his book, Conscientious Objections, Neil Postman wrote: “Sometime about the middle of 1963, my colleague Charles Weingartner and I delivered in tandem an address to the National Council of Teachers of English. In that address we used the phrase “future shock” as a way of describing the social paralysis induced by rapid technological change. To my knowledge, Weingartner and I were the first people ever to use it in a public forum. Of course, neither Weingartner nor I had the brains to write a book called Future Shock, and all due credit goes to Alvin Toffler for having recognized a good phrase when one came along” (p. 162).”

Consider the parallel rise to prominence of drugs, sex and rock and roll and risk-management. One is all about taking a chance, experimenting, daring to be wrong as a way of discovering what is right. The other views risk as a necessary evil which needs to be qualified, quantified, monetized and put in a box like a rattle snake. These are two distinctly different mind sets and, ironically, it could be argued that one is actually good for the other, that one could temper the excesses the other, right-brained thinkers and left-brained thinkers.

Consider for a moment Isaac Newton thinking his grave thoughts under the apple tree. Contrast that with now, in the heat of the technology explosion, where the future is diminished to a blur of moment-to-moment reconfiguration. Think of the major re-engineering the lies ahead for “flat earthers”. But also think of the major re-engineering that lies ahead for us as individuals and the fundamental way we think about things as part of adapting to the accelerating pace of change. Structural change does not come easy, especially when reinforced by a bureaucracy and embrittled by long practice and vested interest.

Your right to privacy:
I wrote a story once about a man in his mid-forties, alone and struggling to make something of himself, but not with much success. With much on the line and two corporate bosses in the back seat, his car is pulled over by Alberta provincial fish and wildlife personnel checking for fish caught out of season. A background check on our driver revealed enough background data on him that they made him a proposal. Statistically, they told him, he would never be successful, would never be happy or have any sense of self-worth; that people in his category represent a great cost to the state. Therefore this proposal: In exchange for a painless exit, the province would create for him an instant estate of several hundred thousand dollars to go to his child or children, any relative or worthwhile cause. Ultimate vindication for a loser, caution prevails and Alberta tax payers save major tax dollars.
This was a scenario far-fetched some 16 years ago when it was conceived. But look again. The future has been surpassed as this very same fear is echoed in the recently non-fiction book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Play (V Mayer-Schönberger, Kenneth Cukier.(2013) Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) as reviewed by M. Kakutani New York Times Book Review. June 10, 2013: “Watched by the Web: Surveillance Is Reborn”
“…: … Predictions seem so accurate”, Mr. Cukier and Mr. Mayer-Schönberger worry, “that people can be arrested for crimes before they are committed. In the real near future, the authors suggest, big data analysis (instead of the clairvoyant Pre-Cogs in that movie) may bring about a situation “in which judgments of culpability are based on individualized predictions of future behavior.”

Privacy: a need for direction
It’s happening everywhere – public and private surveillance. In the Age of Technology everything is online, everything online is monitored, opinion can carry its own consequences and widely shared opinion – no matter how wrong headed – can prevail.
The clichéd frog-in-the-boiling-water metaphor is apt as a description for the passive state we have been in with relation to the encroachment of technology on our everyday lives as individuals. Until now.

Can technology trigger democratization?
Time to temper our anxieties, gain another perspective on what might seem to be unchecked moral and ethical drift for the sake of expediency – political or otherwise.
The trend toward lifelong and self-directed learning with their individual empowerment can be thwarted if our every social interaction is tracked and filed. Where’s the liberation in that? What does it say about self-empowerment in a world of mounting limitations? How do we forestall this momentum, stop it in its tracks before it reaches critical mass? How do we strike a balance? Look first to our education leaders, how they view their educational goals: teach to inform or teach to transform.
And this time Big Data can play a positive role, notes reviewer, Kakutani M.. June 10, 2013. New York Times Book Review: “Watched by the Web: Surveillance Is Reborn” as he quotes the authors, ” Mr. Cukier and Mr. Mayer-Schönberger when they argue that big data analytics are revolutionizing the way we see and process the world — they even compare its consequences to those of the Gutenberg printing press. And in this volume they give readers a fascinating — and sometimes alarming — survey of big data’s growing effect on just about everything: business, government, science and medicine, privacy and even on the way we think. Notions of causality, they say, will increasingly give way to correlation as we try to make sense of patterns. Data is growing incredibly fast — by one account, it is more than doubling every two years — and the authors of this book argue that as storage costs plummet and algorithms improve, data-crunching techniques, once available only to spy agencies, research labs and gigantic companies, are becoming increasingly democratized.”

Democratization is the key. This is where we begin to infuse into the system what Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner refers to in his Five Minds for the Future – the Ethical Mind.

Professor Gardner explains
“Concerns about the future rightly focus on the enterprise of education. The quality of that enterprise rests on our ability to conceive in the present the capacities and abilities that will sustain and enrich the future lives of our students. The minds considered here are discrete accomplishments that young people should be able to find and examine in their homes and their communities. A supportive environment is the most important foundation for the sorting and synthesizing that mark true educational growth.
Gardner, H. (2008). The Five Minds for the Future. Schools: Studies In Education, 5(1-2), 17-24. (begins at the 22’ 40” mark )
Note that Professor Gardner draws the distinction between ethics and morality. His reasoning should be easy to understand: to avoid moral purging and the tyranny of majority-driven witch hunts.
How do we imbue a learner with ethical thinking to the extent he or she understands and can practice it?

Making it Work: Changing Roles of Adult Educators
Relevant change: How education leaders view their educational goals – to inform or transform.
The change begins with how adult educators themselves learn. It also depends on the context of the learning environment.

“Leaders should focus on the four pillars of Learning: supporting the practice of teamwork among teachers, giving teachers leadership roles, engaging the faculty in inquiry and establishing relationships.”Drago-Severson, Ellie1. Independent School. Summer2006, Vol. 65 Issue 4, p58-64. 7p. 1 Chart. Article

But what kind of education leader can take Professor Gardner’s Ethical Mind and introduce it to the learning system? Ms. Drago-Severson points to another Harvard man, Robert Kegan, Professor of education focusing on adult learning, who contends that teachers have three ways of learning.
1. Instrumental Way of Knowing. The highly practical
2. The Socializing Way of Knowing
3. The Self-Authorizing Way of Knowing of self actualizers
It is this third type of education leader, she says, that Dr Kegan attributes Maslow’s highest level of development – a well-developed capacity for abstract thought. It is this abstract thinking ability that Howard Gardner says is essential for an Ethical Mind
But here Kegan cautions, says Ms Drago-Severson, “ …self-authoring knowers need to be encouraged, on occasion, to let go of their own perspectives and embrace points of view that are in opposition to their own. When it comes to group problem solving, they tend to prefer their own approach. Because of this, they need to learn to be open to other approaches, and supported in this effort. They also need to learn to be comfortable setting aside their values in order to understand the values and perspectives of others. In short, school leaders need to help these adults become less invested in their own perspectives and more open to opposing views.”
If these “self-authorizing knowers” were to seed their education system with the ethical imperative the initiative could become a system-wide tenant – an “article of faith” for further development
1. Thought: teamwork among teachers, giving teachers leadership roles,
2. Second Thought: engaging the faculty in inquiry and establishing relationships.
3. After Thought: where you assess the results of the Ethical Mind initiative.
If Big Data is to play a positive role, in the creation of the ethical element in life-long learning it might be applied between Second Thought and After Thought in the three-step “thought, second thought and after thought” sequence.
Helping Teachers Learn and Adapt:
Coaches can be play a vital role in maintaining the link on ethics instruction between education leaders and teachers
Reading Coaches and the Relationship between Policy and Practice.
Authors: Coburn, Cynthia E.. Woulfin, Sarah L.. Reading Research Quarterly. Jan-Mar2012, Vol. 47 Issue 1, p5-30. 26p. 1 Chart, 3 Graphs. Case Study
Abstract: We argue that, although reading coaches were only one of multiple sources from which teachers learned about Reading First policy, teachers were much more likely to make substantial changes in their classroom practice when they learned about the policy message from a coach than from other sources. Coaches influenced teachers by helping them to learn new approaches and to integrate them into their classroom. But, they also did so by pressuring teachers, shaping how they saw and understood Reading First, and by counseling them on which aspects of the policy to focus on and which aspects to ignore. Thus, we present a vision of coaching that goes much beyond its educational roles, to highlight the political roles of the coach as well. We close by drawing implications for research on coaching, policy implementation, and practice.

We are examining the reluctance to adapt because of preconceived notions, strongly held opinions, entrenched perceptions. The success of the learning environment is diminished if it is at odds with the community.

Developing Community Expectations: The Critical Role of Adult Educators. Authors:
Deggs, David1 Miller, Michael1. Adult Learning. Summer2011, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p25-30. 6p.
“The article presents a study that discusses the significant role of adult educators in the development and expansion of social capital among residents within communities. It mentions that educators need to know and understand how social interactions inspire ad influence the life of citizens living within communities. It states that it is also beneficial to promote educational opportunities for all citizens and ensure career training that creates passion for learning.”

They specifically identify Formal Education Bodies such as schools; Cecil Agencies; Informal Associations; Religious Affiliations and Home Life.

How we teach the art of learning; how our learning is about adapting to change that includes an ethical mind; how educators themselves can adjust and implement beginning with those among them who are best equipped to initiate that change: that is what this blog has been all about.