||Friday, September 05, 2003
||Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Doug Adler and Dave Pollard on what school is really about.
It has always been in the interests of industrialized countries, or rather their captains of industry to have:
- a large pool of uneducated workers
- a rate of unemployment around 6%
- Bread and circuses to divert the great unwashed.
It keeps the public's minds off how they are being manipulated. The purpose of school is not to educate but to socialize individuals, to get them ready for the rat race.
So, why is this becoming a hot topic again now? Maybe it's because the inherent tension between a system designed to numb minds and dedicated teachers who are tring to stimulate those minds has reached, through the constant de-funding of education - a breaking point. Maybe it's because the actions of our politicians have become so blatantly harmful that John Q. Public can't be distracted enough anymore to totally ignore them. Maybe the world has become so tumultuous and patently dangerous place, particularly for Americans, that the lotus eaters have started to awaken from their stupors and have begun to see reality through their dreams. Maybe Ajmerica is in the act of swallowing the red pill.. I don't know the reason - I can only hope that America is finally waking up.
Changing Face of Blogs. I've been struggling to get going with blogging since returning from Europe. Many of my thoughts just prior to going away had an increasingly Corporate Blogging thrust from thinking about teams to also how the news is collected. So it... [Unbound Spiral]
Funny how you make your way through life and then through blogging you find someone by accident who is like a twin?
Campaign to tackle bullying. Behavioural consultants are to be drafted into schools in attempt to stem the rising tide of bullying in the classroom. [BBC News | News Front Page | UK Edition]
There is a bullying epidemic going on in many schools all over the west. Is this because there are more "bad" kids? I don't think so. Maybe it is because there is so little structural identity available anymore. What does this mean? I think that we all need to know that we fit in somewhere. If a school offers no formal tribal structure such as "houses", the kids will make their own. In this Darwinian alternative tribal system, the strong and the cool persecute the outsiders - the different, the uncool and the weak.
Yet we persist in thinking that bullying is an individual issue. Why are we so blind?
Ivy had an educational technology breakthrough las .... Ivy had an educational technology breakthrough last week: she learned to use the computer mouse. Apparently this is not evidence of prodigy status, as there is already a booming market for toddler-targeted software. The article isn't particularly well written, and I found the idea of parents spending $2.8 billion on educational toys (including multimedia) sort of repulsive. Overzealous moms collecting every Baby Einstein title and talking about the importance of a good college for their 16-MONTH-old's future...isn't it all a bit disgusting?
Pushing very young children into predefined learning activities seemed rather odious, but that first impression may not be entirely fair. And the definitions of pushing and learning are tricky. I spend a lot of time online, and my two-year-old wants to participate, so we've found a few things that we enjoy doing together online. It's certainly learning -- play and learning are completely intertwined. I had shown Ivy how to use the mouse a couple of times before, and she enjoyed zooming it around the mousepad for its own sake, but had never made the connection between the physical motion and what was happening on the screen. The week before in the SuperDuperDolphin game, she suddenly understood that the dolphin did tricks when she clicked on the pail of fish, but she couldn't figure out how to move the cursor over the pail.
Last week's breakthrough came while playing a Flash activity called Sing-a-Song Clay-Along from the Disney empire (see screenshot). It's a simple piano with four characters, one of whom is performing at any given time. I gave her the mouse and showed her how to click the button again, then let her loose on the virtual keyboard. She was concentrating intensely, but smiling when the character would sing different notes as she clicked the keys. Then I asked her to try getting the pig to sing, and she slowly moved the cursor over the pig and clicked...then went back to the piano and started clicking virtual keys. Oink, OINK, oink...to her great delight.
I suppose this is happening for young kids all over the world these days, and shouldn't be a big deal. But for someone who believes in the power of the web to transform learning and knowledge, it seemed like a significant milestone -- a symbol of the online access Ivy will have to ideas, entertainment and other people throughout her life. She won't remember the first time she used a computer, mouse or software...it's just part of her environment. I wrote a bit about Ivy's favourite online activity from her pre-mousing days: The Snake Game, using me as a guide and the Google image search as her playground. It's a great way to spend time, but her new skill gives her more control over the world...well, the virtual world, anyway.
I guess I have this vague sense of lingering guilt that she's too young to be sucked into the digital vortex, but I think that's the Luddite in me. These things she's experiencing online are more interactive than anything she'll see on TV, and allow her more control to create, explore and manipulate than any reading session might offer. But $3.8 billion is just ridiculous -- one of the coolest things about the web is that this stuff is all free. [Jeremy Hiebert's headspaceJ -- Instructional Design and Technology]
I think that games have a lot to teach us about learning. Our instructional model is wrong. How we really learn best is by "Playing". Why boys love games and hate school.
||Friday, August 29, 2003
Enrollment for the media courses at our community college is way down this year. Is this part of the dot-com fallout or is something more going on?
What is on offer is a one year full time class based course that costs $10,000 and teaches you to create web pages. I asked my blogging friends on PEI, none of whom are older than 24 and most younger and all of whom are experts in web based communication, - note I did not say experts in web creation.- to tell me how they learned to be so good.
- They were all highly motivated and started to "play around" on the web when they were very young
- They learned from each other and still do
- None of them see learning about a tool or a technique as being central - one said that when they see a resume that states that the person has mastered a set of named software, they bin it immediately - wrong approach. They do not take a product approach but a holistic approach
So who takes these courses? Maybe folks who have no talent but who think that the web is hot. What happens when they enter the workforce - they meet the web version of Miles Davis or Dave Brubeck with a high school band talent - result they are peons not masters.
So what do you do if you are our community college? Maybe you have to link those who want to learn to those that can teach rather than try and teach the sheep. This is a huge shift. Does it only fit with IT?
What about automotive trades. Until now you could go to a college and learn how to fix a car. But what about Hybrids and soon fuel cells - who will stop the train for long enough to create a conventional curriculum? It can't be done. We will have to learn on the job as the job will be changing too fast. So what does the Community College have to do to create the learning environment. The same process is true for many areas - think even of construction - post Kyoto we will change radically how we build and the material will change very fast. You can't teach stuff that is 3 years out of date.
Who can we learn from? eBay I think. They have made a business through creating a safe community where people can do business with each other.
For me the big challenge is how can we create a safe community where we can learn from each other?
eBay have revolutionized retailing as a result. No inventory! You think that education has no inventory - think again - it is all about inventory - they are called courses and departments - they build and sell. Changes in inventory are exceptionally slow. But the pace of change is accelerating. Formal learning cannot keep up and will only fall behind.
It is also all so expensive. Canadian university fees were up 7% this year while inflation is about 3%. School costs are rising much faster than inflation and the degree is falling in value as more kids enroll. Student debt will be cancer on the next generation. But if you get out of build and sell you get out of your main costs - inventory.
So here is the challenge. What small place that knows it cannot compete with the large traditional centres will have the balls to set up the eBay of learning?
New movements tend to stall when the "in group" want to keep the movement within the
The same may be true for blogging. The number of people that know about what a blog is among my clients is very small. Intuitively I would say less than 2%. What would put them off? Anything technical. Blogging has to be made really easy.
Why do I mention St Paul? At the outset of Christianity there was a huge debate. The "In Group" as lead by the surviving disciples of Jesus insisted that to be a Christian you had to be a Jew. This meant adult circumcision for the men and backseat behind a screen for the women. Quite a "technical" hurdle!!!. Paul argued that all men and women should be able to become Christians - guess who won? Pride in coping with the technical sides of blogging is a block for take-up.
The real opportunity is when a group of "Ingroup folks" maybe like "socialtext" really engage with organizational life and find the fit. Step 1 has to be"Easy does it" Easy does it demands that anyone who can type can set up a good blog and that there are a number of great templates. We are exploring Typepad to see if we can make it even easier.
Step two has to be finding the immediate felt benefit. This is more challenging and I think demands that we find parts of an organization where building a community will help - maybe in the entire support area. This is where the whole KM issue rears its head. The idea of content management is an exceptionally stupid idea that flies in the face of how we understand knowledge. Only a small fraction of knowledge is explicit - the vast bulk is implicit - ie it is ten times better to talk to someone about an issue than to try and find what he has written about it. Who wants a manual when you can be walked through? BP has been a leader here in seeing that their key system issues is to find a way of connecting people with questions to people with answers. Each employee has a personal website that amongst other things has a lot of info about what they know. The deal at BP is that if you have question you search for the person.
Why should we care anyway? Blogging is our path back to being human at work. Blogging reveals who we are to not only others but more importantly to ourselves. For the first time mankind - the great tool maker - who has used tool making ingenuity to make the world and himself into a tool, or a thing, has created a tool that renews and brings back what it is to be human.
So like Paul - we are faced with an historic choice. We can relegate blogging to geekiness and tool making or we can work to change our relationships back from machine to human.
What do I mean by this bold statement? We can change democracy by making it essential for politicians to be real and to listen to us. We can get the issues that make sense on the table other than spin. We can make management of organizations transparent and give organizations a human Cluetrain voice. We can change how we learn - from each other rather than from institutions. We can change healthcare by empowering fellow sufferers to help each other rather than to rely on the priests of medicine. We so change the world as Paul did.
Blogs for What Business?. Jimmy Guterman's new piece on business blogging (sub. required) is sure to cause a stir. He charges the blogging community as being "self-absorbed and elitist" and says its not essential for business. He cites a Forrester study to back up his claims:
You don't have to believe me on this. Finally, some data asserts that blogs are hardly a popular pursuit. If anything, blogging is more marginal than its critics contend. Forrester Research (FORR) conducted an online survey of 3,673 people and found that 79 percent of its respondents had never heard of blogs, 98 percent had never read one, and 98 percent said they'd never pay to read or write one. Blogs can be wonderful things, but if a mere 2 percent of Internet users read blogs, the pastime is far from mainstream. The Forrester survey notes that the typical blog reader has been using the Web for an average of six years. For the most part, blogs feature the Net elite writing to the Net elite. This continues to be the case only as long as the elite are underemployed.
I believe what Jimmy is saying is that there isn't a consumer market for blogging and that it isn't essential for businesses to address it. The problem is we are at the very beginning of a technology adoption lifecycle. Some serious companies have forecasted this market to grow and made their bets accordingly. Every time a journalist tries to wrap themselves around the existing market, what's visible are early adopters. What stands out are the leaders in using blogs for publishing, who benefit from preferential attachment as the earliest entrants. And if you take the innovator dialogue to seriously it looks like a one ring circus.
The other story folks pick up on is unclueful attempts by businesses and PR firms to market to bloggers as an emerging and influential segment. Any attempt to treat bloggers as a segment will fail. Today the influence of participants who act more as producers than consumers is the attraction. The number of participants is growing at 400% per year, and that's before AOL's entry.
But the real story in the consumer market is how increasing numbers of real people are using blogs , but as a way to communicate an form their own communities. Its that skinny tail of the power-law distribution that's going to wag the market. A way to share with friends, communicate post-by-post and remain open to new people joining your community. Conversational Networks provide the most value to your average Jane.
Rick Bruner does make the case that there are lots of businesses using blogs in the consumer market and points out this is like the web in 1995 and where the weblog as publishing market is headed. And many of them are making money. I agree that more evidence in this area would help, always does, but give it time for these new ventures to tell their story.
There is another story of weblogs and business that is less visible because the real action is behind the firewall. At Socialtext we are adapting weblogs for use within enterprises. Weblogs are one Enterprise Social Software tool, because they are necessary but not sufficient for communication and collaboration.
The enterprise market is entirely different than the consumer market. What is in common is an efficient, and dare I say fun, way of having conversations that contribute to productivity. Maybe its time we start telling more of our customer stories, but the distinction between consumer and enterprise needs to be made. [Corante: Social Software]
||Saturday, August 23, 2003
Questions for all those who plan to run for office in the upcoming PEI Election
1. The economy - In the next 4 years (the life of the government) the potato processing side of our economy will collapse and will take down its surrounding infrastructure. As it collapses - US markets will close, there will be a drought/flood/ more disease etc, it will try even harder to survive and threaten our water and environment even further.
Will the new government use up all its resources to "save the jobs" or will it work to create an alternatives such as a local food system?
If they choose to "save the jobs" they risk the new future of tourism - eco tourism. A last ditch attempt to "save the jobs" will threaten in turn our landscape and will turn away the real future for this sector. The days of the beach holiday where families are satisfied with a cottage with 7 others on the Brackley Point Road are over as well - demography and shifts in values are seeing to that. Golf is also oversold and over capitalized.
Will the new government spend all their time and money in keeping this side of tourism alive and "saving the jobs" or will it support eco tourism that fits who we are and where the market is going?
We are seeing the end of the lobster fishery this year. The processors have not sold the spring inventory - changes in world taste and too much of a production based approach - the fall season has seen stocks collapse. The industry is also over capitalized. There are too many mussels in the bays and they do not have enough feed - notice how small they are. There was huge die off of Malpeque oysters this spring. Are you looking at the reasons for this failure?
Will government "save the jobs" in the fishery? There are already $100 million in loan guarantees out to this sector alone.
Will we waste our limited resources on saving what cannot be saved or will we build the new?
Do we understand that it is our economy that produces the cash to pay for the education and healthcare that we feel is so important
2. Energy - Do we understand that we can break fee from oil by going to wind? Do we understand what this type of freedom might mean. Who chooses gas and oil over wind? Tell me why you prefer to be a slave to the oil industry when we could be free?
3. Education - is the issue about keeping schools open or is the issue how badly our kids are doing? Why is there no data available on drop out rates? Why will we not allow measurement? Why do we sit by and allow 40% of Islanders to leave school basically unable to read and write. Is the issue money? In the US they have poured money into this problem and have seen no improvement! Why are boys doing so badly? If more than 30% of boys are on drugs to get them through the school day is it the boys or the system?
Answer these question please Mr Politician before you waffle about money, school opening and class size
4. Health care - Our health care system now costs over 400 million a year and is growing exponentially faster than our economy. If this trend continues in 4 years time Healthcare will cost more than 60% of our budget. Don't talk about services anymore - tell me if you understand this dynamic! Tell me how you see what we have to do to get this growth stopped. Tell me what your plans are if you fail.
Why do you not talk about the fact that we spend half the total lifetime spend on care in the last 6 months of life in a vain attempt to defeat death. That is about 200 million a year! Tell me how you plan to help us and the medical profession deal with this most important cost driver.
Tell me that as our population ages and we have the oldest group in North America that you have a strategy for seniors that will shift them from being dependents to contributing members of society.
Tell me that you understand that drug use is growing at more than 9% compounded and will soon be the # 1 cost in the system. Tell me that you understand that most of this drug use is for lifestyle issues such as depression, hypertension and cholesterol. Tell me that you understand the research that these so called threats are minor when compared to our personal ability to cope.
Tell me that you understand that most of our ability to cope, to learn and to think is set by the age of 6. Tell me how you intend to shift resources to get behind this knowledge.
Tell me that you understand that it is not business as usual. Tell me that you understand that we are coming to end of the industrial system Tell me that you can see how fragile our world is today. Tell me that you would, like to ask us to help.
My sadness is that of course the election will not be fought around these questions but about the same old stuff of my job versus yours - of being bribed with our own money - of offering simple solutions to complex problems - of blaming the others.
It is even more sad that we have run out of time. In the next 4 years - the life of the next government - the forces will converge. Our resource based economy will fail and our primary social institutions will fail as well.
But we can surely attempt to change the political conversation? Is this not our responsibility. Politicians do not lead they follow.
Can we not use the tool of the internet to talk about the real issues? Why not pillory those who talk rubbish. Why not support those who talk sense?
||Thursday, August 14, 2003
Missing the Librarians for the Trees.
The Myth of Generation N
"For decades, social scientists and technologists have alternatively predicted the emergence of 'computer kids' or a 'net generatio'”—a cohort of children, teenagers, and young adults who have been immersed in digital technology and the digital way of thinking since their conception.
This new generation, the thinking went, would be everything that their parents weren’t when it came to technology: They would know how to type, partake in electronic communications, and be able to rapidly figure out how all this stuff worked. They would be so adept at using computers that calling them 'computer literate' would be an insult. They would see society as something to be mastered and hacked, not something that they need to fit inside.
Certainly, a lot of evidence supports a 'net generation' effect. Although there are no reliable statistics on computer literacy, good figures do exist on Internet usage, thanks to the Pew Internet Project. According to its survey released earlier this year, 74 percent of people in the United States age 18 to 29 have Internet access, compared with 52 percent of those age 50 to 64. Among the over-65 set, Internet access plummets to just 18 percent. And in my own age group, 30 to 49, 52 percent have some kind of Net access. These figures certainly argue for the existence of a 'Generation N.'
But the more time I spend with the kids who should be members of Generation N—today’s high school and college students—the more convinced I am that the notion of universal computer competence among young people is a myth. And the techno-laggards among us risk being relegated to second-class citizenship in a world that revolves around, and often assumes, access to information technology....
Experts in human-computer interaction say that the real difference between teenagers and their elders is teens’ willingness to experiment with computers, combined with their acceptance of the seemingly arbitrary conventions that are endemic to contemporary computer interfaces. In other words, teens aren’t worried about breaking their computers, and they’re not wise enough or experienced enough to get angry at and reject poorly written programs. The teens just deal with computers, as they are forced to deal with many other aspects of their lives. These strategies, once learned and internalized, are incredibly effective for working with today’s computer technology....
...Unfortunately, with the changes overtaking our society, today’s kids who don’t have tech experience and tech aptitude are going to be left behind much faster than their elders.
And that’s the danger in believing that time will give us a population that’s completely computer literate. Remember, the Pew study found that 26 percent of young adults do not have Internet access. An even bigger determiner than age is education: only 23 percent of people who did not graduate from high school have Internet access, compared with 82 percent of those who have graduated from college.
Certainly, more kids today are growing up wired—but millions of them are not. Meanwhile, we’re rebuilding our society in ways that make things increasingly difficult for people who aren’t online. For example, people who don’t want to (or can’t) buy their airplane tickets on the Web now typically have to wait on hold for 30 minutes with the airline or go through a travel agent and pay an agency fee—sometimes as much as $50. When I needed to renew my passport, the local post office didn’t have the form: they told me to download it from the Internet.
This is a problem that won’t be solved through more education or federal grants. As a society, we need to come to terms with the fact that a substantial number of people, young and old alike, will never go online. We need to figure out how we will avoid making life unbearable for them." [Technology Review]
First of all, bad title because when you cite statistics such as "74% of Americans ages 18-29 have internet access," that's pretty much a "generation." Did every member of the "greatest generation" fight in World War II? No. Did every member of the "baby boomers" smoke pot and protest the war? No. But yet 74% of a generation that has internet access doesn't qualify as a critical mass.
Actually, I don't even think of kids ages 18-29 as netgens. My personal definition would be kids age 15 and younger. If you're generous and figure that the internet has been mainstream for six years, then you really need to look at netgens as kids that have grown up during that six year period and their younger siblings. I know the 18-29 age group came of age with computers, but the internet is a whole new ball of wax. Email, the web, and instant messaging are changing our society even faster than computers did. And these kids that grow up taking this stuff for granted are already ahead of my 35-year old self in how they assume and assimilate an interconnected world.
I know folks like Walt will sigh when they read that, but it's true. The way we take time-shifting technologies like VCRs and walkmans for granted is how these kids take the internet and wireless access for granted. It's just there, as it should always have been there. You mean it wasn't always like that? As I've noted before, my kids think every laptop can connect to the internet, and at high speeds, too. They have no idea that you might ever need a cable to do it, either. They think every camera can instantly display the picture it just took and pretty soon, they'll think that all cell phones can take pictures.
But what about the author's original point that 26% of this generation won't be computer or net-literate? Well, my question is how sad is it that he doesn't note the single most important support net for those people - libraries? Who could teach them information literacy in the digital age, either in school or in general classes at the public library? Who can provide them with free access to purchase that airline ticket or download that form? Who can provide them with the backup print resources that they need? Who can find information for them when they can't do it themselves?
The same folks that are there for every other past or future generation - librarians. And you know why the article's author encounters high school and college kids who aren't information literate? It's because politicians keep cutting library budgets, insisting that they're not important anymore. In some states, like California, they cut school librarian positions until there are almost none left. In some states, like Florida, they decide that critical institutions like the State Library are expendable and no longer need to be funded.
So how come Technology Review doesn't mention that?
[The Shifted Librarian]
I have been talking about the low levels of traditional literacy on PEI. This article and Jenny's comments reveal an even greater need to be able to read. If you cannot read - you cannot participate in the online world. Soon there will be no alternative. Government services, business and social communication will increasingly go online and the alternatives will dry up. Maybe the Libraray will be the home of the illiterate? What a concept!
||Wednesday, August 13, 2003
I had coffee with a colleague yesterday who has a 7 year old son.. We were talking about education - specifically about the poor literacy rates on PEI. She works at our Community College we are working to find better ways of remediating this problem. But then we turned personal and I asked her how her son was doing. He is 7. A month into grade 1, she was told that she/he had a problem. Her son was too active. Here is a dialogue from another page but I think it sums up what she heard.
Anyone who has had a little boy knows that the little darlings can run you ragged. Even before he crawls, he is naturally more active, more exploratory about his surroundings and more mobile than most baby girls.
By the time your little boy is five, he's still as cute and playful but all the more hard to control. Is it only your child, or is it all boys?
Soon the innocence of boyhood yields and it seems that the natural ants-in-the-pants that our boys have always had is an invitation to diagnose problems. That which was once considered normal behavior is now a cause for alarm.
From infancy to the early toddler years, parents accommodate little boys. Experts say all toddlers should roam and explore, but it just so happens that the more unbridled sex is the male. Until he starts school, even the most disciplined little boy is not satisfied with long periods of quiet time. Then school begins, and the environment that once understood the boy for what he is now expects him to act complacently, quietly, and without the motion that predated his school years.
"This child has attention problems," the Kindergarten parent hears.
"Your boy is very sweet, but easily distracted," reports the first-grade teacher.
"We've told him repeatedly that he is not allowed to wrestle and push others," the third-grade teacher sighs.
"He's had four warnings and he still doesn't bring in his homework," hears the ninth-grade parent.
Much of the current drive behind school reform stems from the belief that the cookie-cutter approach to education doesn't work. Perhaps what is expected of a boy these days is in conflict with normal male energy and curiosity.
Schools, for the most part, are dominated by women, and boys are taught to the "rhythm of girls," says Archibald Montgomery, headmaster of the all-boys Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland and treasurer of the International Boys School Coalition. It's not an evil conspiracy, he points out. But it does lead to some troubling outcomes.
For example, boys are ten times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, according to a 1997 American Psychologist article. Is it because they are more prone to ADD or have we ceased to distinguish between the different nature of boys and girls? It's partly both, but experts agree that ADD is often abused and overdiagnosed.
Dan Kindlon, along with Michael Thompson, is the author of Raising Cain, Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (Ballantine). He points out that a more effective approach to dealing with ADD-like problems might be to fix the environment, rather than focusing on a fix for the child. In other words, high-paced, hyperactive schedules can lead to lack of sleep and high-paced, hyperactive behavior.
A mother of four boys recalls when her youngest was two and she took him to the doctor. Anne Roche Muggeridge describes what happened:
"He was one of those kids who is never out of motion while awake. During the examination, he kept reaching out to the interesting medical paraphernalia around him, and I kept gently fending off his little fingers."
"Is he always like this?" the doctor asked.
"Yes, he is always like this," she replied.
"Perhaps we should put him on Ritalin."
"Over our dead bodies," said Mom. "He is not disturbed. He is disturbing."
Muggeridge has an intuitive mother's insight into the different nature of boys. They are more tactile, "squirmier," more active - especially in group settings - and often develop at a slower rate than girls.
Parents who take time to question the suggested kid-fix often look to boys' schools for more understanding. When a school environment is designed to suit the needs of boys, that school then has the luxury - "the honor" Montgomery calls it - of structuring the curriculum to boys' special needs. Because their fine motor skills don't develop as quickly as girls, for example, he doesn't schedule cursive handwriting into the curriculum as early as it might appear in a co-ed setting. Boys at his school are also allowed to move around the classroom more and allowed to be tactile. Their activity level is celebrated.
Not every parent can afford such an environment, and many would prefer the traditional co-ed school. But a parent can have a huge effect upon how her boys are treated. For starters, don't immediately accept the "Billy has a problem" approach from the educators. While they may mean well, it could be anything from the kind of reading instruction to the level of rigorous coursework (or lack thereof) that is making Billy fidget. While you want to cooperate, explore deeper into how the school is structured. Are there cooperative groups for the children? Oftentimes boys don't excel while facing other classmates as the teacher is teaching. Boys are naturally more competitive and less group oriented than girls.
Is there enough activity time? Are children engaged in creative play throughout their school years and given a chance to express themselves through various art venues? Finally, does the school allow enough flexibility for teachers to address the uniqueness of their classes with materials, activities and special events?
At one all-boy school, science class is done almost entirely outside. The boys engage in earth, wind and sky observations and the excitement of preparing for their "natural history" class is used as a carrot by the teacher when trying to get them through the more passive English or math classes.
Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails? You bet. Rather than try to change their nature, we should find educators who see the challenge in it" (Parent Power)
How's it going with your sons? Is he a problem or merely a boy? Surely when more than 30% of boys are failing at school it is time to look at the school rather than at your son?
"Ha revenge!" you say as a woman. So what kind of man would you want in your life or in your daughter's life? An aware and capable partner or an angry deadbeat who is frightened of where women are in the world today? Behind PEI's bucolic vistas, are dark homes where sad men take revenge on capable women whom they fear. Last summer a young woman who was studying at our community college and breaking out of her life trap was murdered. Her murder has not been solved. So what might have been the motive? A visitor from away who is a serial killer motivated by deep desires or someone whom she knew motivated by fear of losing her? You make up your own mind.
||Sunday, August 10, 2003
We live today in one of those periodic times, when shifts in beliefs and in communication technology drive a fundamental change in how power is defined and exercised. What are these trends and how do they manifest themselves in the lives of universities? How can universities, with their unique cultures and management processes, cope and even prosper in this type of environment?
What is going on? What are these trends and what do they mean for managing a University? In particular, what do they mean for the social and human aspects that HR will have to plan for?
- A revolution in demography - By 2020, most people in the developed world will be over 50. This is a unique demographic event in the history of nature. This aging of society will affect all aspects of the social and work world. It will be especially challenging for organizations that rely on a stream of young customers or those who rely on the young to replace the old as participants. Universities are vulnerable in both ends of the age spectrum. Who will teach? Who will be the students? How will we attract and retain staff and students? Our previous assumptions about the answers to these questions will have to be revisited.
- A revolution in values. There is a pronounced shift in organizational values in the developed world. The shift is from an acceptance in organizations of a top down and process driven approach toward a new set of values that built on self-expression and dialogue. This values' shift is proving a challenge to all organizations In particular, all "customer" interfaces in every field of service delivery are being challenged by this new values set. There is no reason why institutions of learning should be exempt from this shift. where the managerial culture is authoritarian. For academia, the shift is especially challenging as it demands also a shift in pedagogy from where the teacher and content is the centre piece to where the student and dialogue is the centre piece. What is meant by this shift? What is the right course to take? How will we get there? Our current approach to delivery and to teaching itself has to re-evaluated.
- A revolution in technology - It is not an illusion, the pace of technological change is accelerating in a non-linear manner. The web revolution has however only just begun. The impact on society will be similar to the advent of the railway which radically changed how and where people lived and worked in the 19th century. We can expect no less of a revolution today. While the new design for society is not yet clear, the new design for service delivery is emerging with some clarity. New technology enables the customer to access the service provider on his terms and at times that suit the customer. The new manufacturing process, as developed by Dell, has turned the Ford model of make and sell on its head. The adversarial customer relationship of the transaction economy, is being replaced by a community and relationship based model as exemplified by eBay and Amazon. How will this affect education? Many say that education is different. This may be a dangerous assumption. These technological and cultural forces are located already on the edge of the Academic world and are becoming ubiquitous. They fit the new values and they fit the new service/cost criteria as we are seeing in the airline industry. They will bear down on how universities operate. What will happen to high cost, place and content based universities when an educational equivalent of Southwest Airlines or EBay emerges? Other organizations in other sectors that have not thought about this threat now face extinction.
- A revolution in educational costs and service expectations - A generation ago, post secondary education was an elite process. Now it is expected to be accessible to most young people. This has lead to a massive expansion in the scale of universities and to a new and challenging relationship with government. Governments, in many parts of the developed world, see universities as engines of economic and social development. As Governments pay many of the bills, their social and economic expectations are becoming important parts of the university agenda. In response, Universities have had little choice but to adopt many of the features of the industrial workplace. Mass production of content and mass processing of students has enabled student participation to rise but at the cost of a significant increase in infrastructure costs and a corresponding reduction in organizational flexibility. Development and fund raising have become critical skills of the President. Coping with Unions and labour relations has become an important Presidential skill. As a result, the culture of business is seeping though the academic world. Paradoxically, as more students participate and as the direct and indirect costs of education rise for the student, the value of a BA is devalued in the work place. The average student can no longer afford a 4 year term at university away from home. Something in the cost mix will have to break. The current system cannot deliver the price and the quality that the student can afford and that the staff can tolerate. The result is a growing conflict between the internal stakeholders. All the stakeholders intuitively sense that something has to give but have circled their own wagons to defend themselves. How can Universities break the deadlock between their constituent parts? Is it likely that the conventional process of fighting this out at the bargaining table will work? What new process would give us the chance of reconciling the fears of the competing groups?
What operational issues will be exposed by these trends? -
- Bearing in mind, a very small pool and a huge demand, how will we attract and retain the key academic and specialist staff that we need? Rank this issue in importance? Is this a survival issue or just a tough one to deal with? What are the financial implications of getting this wrong? What are the reputational issues of getting this wrong?
- How important will dealing with the subset issues such as pay and work place culture be to the attraction and retention issues? Is money the only issue? What can you afford bearing mind the pressure on the cost front?
- Is transforming our costs merely about finding new cuts or will they come from a redesign of how we do things? How will conventional cuts affect the ability of the university to deliver? What will happen to morale and to students? What will increasing risk of more internal conflict mean?
- Will finding more effective and ways of teaching more for less be about the application of new technology or is it about finding a way to change our mindsets about how to do this differently?
- Is affecting change itself an issue of power or is it an issue of understanding how we change from a psycho-social perspective. How important is being able to change?
- How important is it to reduce the centrifugal forces that are affecting our university? Can this be done as a matter of power or are there social and organizational design issues involved?
- How can we reduce the inertial and complexity drag of our union environment? How important is this in a rapidly changing world? Can we use power to do this?
- Our health and benefits costs are growing at a non linear rate. How substantive is the threat to our financial health? Is solving this issue a matter of power or design?
I have been talking to a number of universities about what their world feels like today. Here are some of my early views.
The bottom line - Universities have become too complex for conventional management processes and conventional HR approaches which have a tendency to seek conformity and are based on both a mechanical mindset and the belief in cause and effect. Many enterprises have complexity such as different divisions, but at a modern university the complexity is overwhelming.
What is it about a modern university that is so complex? It is because there are a number of distinct cultures that are on a trajectory of conflict. This conflict is based on scarcity, the need to change the nature of universities completely, which will mean that the conflict will become very bitter.
The dominant culture of the university is the academic culture. In the past the academics also ran the university so there was an alignment between the dominant culture and management. That was a time when universities were like large clubs and were not part of the mainstream of life and high on the government agenda. This is no longer the case. The president is tasked with running the university and the largest group, the academics now play a blocking role. The main culture conflict is between the guild of academics and the President who represents a new culture that is an anathema to the guild - a business culture. The complexity is amplified by what I see as a "slave revolt". At a lower level are 2 grieving groups. A new class of teachers: the TA and the Sessional Lecturers who are treated like helots by the Guild and who will fight for status. A rising group of administrators who in the past were cleaning staff but now are IT professionals and Lab technicians who also want status.
These groups are all unionized and their issues are being built into a deteriorating negotiating environment and into difficult meetings in the Presidents office where one side tries to win over another.
The President is the only person who can see the big picture. All the groups are hunkering down to win their own battles. This is what the President sees.
- Fees for undergraduates are already too high as are the total costs of attending 4 years. Now $60,000 for a 4 year term they are expected to be $100,000 in 20 years time. The average debt on leaving is over $25,000. The theory was that with a degree, high paying jobs were a certainty. As the pool of graduates has got larger this is no longer a valid assumption and many are crushed by this debt. They are seeking a better way and will jump at a credited course that does not demand 3-4 years residency. Presidents know that their model of product push on campus will be disintermediated by an electronic alternative. Presidents want to find ways of structurally reducing these costs.
- The new demography will cut the number of undergraduates severely in Canada in the next 10 years. Between numbers and money something will have to give. Presidents want to look at other groups such as seniors but this does not fit the system.
- Over 50% of faculty in North America will retire in the next 10 years. Already there is a race to hire. Academic wages are going up to both attract and to retain good staff. Just as Presidents will have to cut costs, the core costs are under pressure to go up. The tendency is to ask government for more - but government will be coping with rising healthcare costs and will back off universities. Or to raise fees! Presidents would like to broaden the type of candidate but the faculty demand that the PHD is the benchmark.
- Another way to reduce costs will be to change the delivery system of courses from face to face to electronic. The heavily unionized faculty will defend this to the death. Defending IP is their by word. In fact this is a smokescreen. The point is that within the universities, faculty do not understand the new medium and don't want too. They don't pay a great deal of attention to undergrads any way. Their status and pay is determined by where they are on the publishing research track and not by teaching. So they are creating a new underclass the TA and the Sessional lecturer. Presidents need to get into the faculty and help them see that holding on too tight is not in their interests
- One of the things that faculty hate the most is the idea of a university becoming like a business. They see the President taking the university to that place. They want it to be a club again. Their club. So they still do all their hiring within the confines of their own discipline. The need to replicate themselves and the tenure system. In so doing they will by design add to the costs and the complexity of the enterprise.
- There are 2 new groups at universities that will increase the complexity and tension in the next 10 years. In the delivery system are the TA and the Sessional lecturer which have become essential in the undergrad world. They both teach and mark. They are the face to face undergrad world. At the moment these are helots - poorly paid and low status. But tensions are rising - after all they do the work. The other group is the ever expanding Administrative world. In my day these were literally servants. Now they are a heavily unionized group of bitter people who feel put upon and without status. Many of them are in the IT area and are lab technicians. We can see the same trend in medicine.
The bottom line? The modern university has at least 4 cultures on a collision course. This type of cultural tension cannot be solved at the negotiating table. Some type of visioning process will be needed and a new managment process that can include these forces.
© Copyright 2003 Robert Paterson.