I never fail to be impressed by the “tragedy of the inertia of the mind” in education – by those educational conversations where we can froth about the networking available through the internet, the participatory cultures possible through Web2.0 branded activity, and then continue to re-imagine how we might learn through the institution of “school”.
We are not only prisoner’s of Ulrich Beck’s nation state, we are prisoners of the sequestered classroom way of doing school.
I think that social and political theory is, to some extent, still a prisoner of the nation-state. Most basic concepts of the social sciences –sociology, the state, democracy, community- are connected to the nation and to the nation-state form. This relates of course to the historical development of political thinking and of the social sciences - both acquired their modern form in the 19th century in the context of imagining national communities. Most of the social sciences are still sticking to what I call the container model of society and politics. Ulrich Beck
Reflecting about education when reading the transnational thinking of Ulrich Beck is not a good idea.
“Because of new communication structures, new communication technologies, new transportation systems and so on, all different cultures, all different nations, and all different religions live in one present, even, if they live at the same time in different pasts and different futures. This is to some extent an integrated present, because the existing communication structures do not allow for the construction of rigid borders anymore.”
Beck made me realise how we have allowed ourselves to be compromised by the lure of edu_protectionism, how we we determinedly ignore the "integrated present" when we think about education.
All that froth over new communication structures and technologies in education, (and the “oh so casual” flinging of terms like 21st Century learners, digital immigrants/ digital natives, Web2.0, social software, systemic and sustainable change into the conversation in staffrooms across New Zealand), means nothing if we continue with closed shop practice when it comes to future thinking about education.
We have been seduced by our inability to imagine ourselves as superfluous to student learning.
When it comes to smart thinking about the future of education, Stephen Downes seems like a lone voice of reason in the edublogosphere – check out his exposure of the “boundaries of the past” in this elegant critique of School2.0. School2.0, where everyone else is happily referencing new technologies so long as they can create structures that keep themselves in jobs.
There is no particular focus for this view of 'School 2.0'. The main point is that technology allows us to change our approach to education, from one where we segregate learners in specially designed education facilities (classrooms, training rooms, schools, universities) to one where learning is something we do (and what educators provide) in the course of any other activity.
The idea is that 'School 2.0' is the first step toward being non-school, and that our objective should be to use technologies to leverage our ability to personalize learning, and in so doing, facilitate students' learning while taking part as full citizens in the wider community.
When you look at it through Beck’s analysis, the New Zealand e-Learning Action Plan, is stuffed full of the rhetoric of the South Island high country fencers. The pages are bullet pointed with "Outcome:" and "Actions" describing the ICT equivalent of laying out fence lines, digging fence post holes and position posts, filling the holes with concrete or soil, cutting and constructing fences with boards, wiring, chain links, posts, and putting together gates and hanging them in position.
These barriers, security fences, retaining walls, vineyard trellises, and other types of fences and walls are intended to manage the web environments schools can access. The MoE e learning rhetoric is all about containment – those “dedicated networks” for education, and boundary building – those Advanced Network and Virtual Learning Network initiatives.
Even our “future proofed” (by newness and draftiness) Draft Curriculum proves on closer analysis to turn itself inside out by stressing the importance of schools adopting the boundaries of the expectations of the past – grounding itself through “local communities” rather than exploring the openness of “global networks”
Quality education is a shared responsibility of the state, the community, the family, and the individual. The New Zealand Curriculum sets national directions for education. It is expected that when schools develop their programmes, they will interpret these directions in ways that take account of the diverse learning needs of their students and the expectations of their communities. Draft Curriculum P4
Beck uses the Muhammad cartoons as an example of how new technologies and communication structures disallow the effectiveness of rigid borders in 2007.
You may remember the clash over the Muhammad cartoons about a year ago. Initially, this was framed as a Danish problem, addressing Muslims in Denmark and attempting to provoke a debate over their integration in Danish society. Almost instantly, this became a global problem. This indicates that even if you try to articulate an issue as a national issue, in many fields this is not possible anymore. Because of new communication structures, new communication technologies, new transportation systems and so on, all different cultures, all different nations, and all different religions live in one present, even, if they live at the same time in different pasts and different futures. This is to some extent an integrated present, because the existing communication structures do not allow for the construction of rigid borders anymore.
By the same reasoning it is hard to argue that our sense of what an educational system “might be” should continue to be imprisoned by the rigid borders of the imaginings of local or even national communities.
We need to think more boldly about learning opportunities that are freed from the classroom container, school container, secondary container, primary container, tertiary container, and even the nation containers.
I reckon Illich is a good place to start this thinking
“A good education system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and finally furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.” - Ivan Illich 1971
If Illich could imagine a good education system – one that didn’t need schools and classrooms in 1971, why do we keep pretending we need schools and classrooms to learn in 2007?
Teemu Arina’s blog posting Serendipity 2.0: Missing Third Places of Learning starts to develop the conversations that we should be having about different ways of learning, different places for learning – different ways of doing school. Lets hope his thinking excites others to think without rigid borders about what learning might be.