Here is one of my private assumptions about education innovation that could use some public criticism:
If [x] is going to change teaching practice at scale, then [x] needs to be easy, fun, and free for both the teacher and her students. [x] needs to be all three of those things at the same time.
Realize that if you’re a teacher and you’re reading a blog post, you’re automatically seeded in the top 10% of innovative educators. You’ll try anything once. Let’s also go with Jack Welch and assume that 10% of educators are hopelessly and/or willfully incompetent.
Convince yourself, then, that 80% of teachers exist on a sliding scale of innovation and are basically up for grabs. Those who don’t want to try [x] aren’t necessarily bad educators. They may have made a rational calculation that [x] isn’t easy enough, fun enough, or free enough to adopt.
There are implications here, some obvious, some subtle:
- “Good” doesn’t matter. This is a little sad. But most of those 80% already have [y], which they consider “good enough.” They won’t pick up [x], however superior it is to [y], unless it is easier or more fun. This puts the burden on the reformer to make something easy, fun, and free that is also good. Good is the Trojan horse of education innovation.
- You’ll have to package [x] for Internet distribution. Because it’s the only way to distribute at scale for (nearly) free.
- Learning should always be fun, though I’m not talking about “fun” as it exists in “unlimited rides and deep-fried Oreos at Six Flags.” Rather I’m talking about the profound sense of satisfaction and accomplishment inherent to good learning. Just to be clear.
- Learning isn’t always easy but learning tools should be. Just for instance, last week, I saw groups of students clicking the same download link over and over again in Safari not realizing that they had already downloaded the attachment. The download window was open but obscured by the browser. Anecdotes like this make me skeptical of Scott McLeod’s argument that computers are to teachers what checkout registers are to grocers. Many of you have vastly overrated the ease of educational computing.
The field of easy, fun, and free innovations that are also good for students isn’t exactly crowded but, for the record, I have bet on two horses. I expect these picks to strike certain readers as simultaneously naive, deranged, or self-obsessed but these innovations, more than any other I’ve used or observed, are ones that sell themselves:
No further comment.