NextGen Education's Articles

What can Linux teach us about managing instruction materials?

February 16, 2018

Linux is a free and open-source software operating system. One might reasonably ask the question: So, what does this have to do with instruction materials for a class? As it turns out, quite a bit. Before making this argument, we should provide some background on the history of Linux.Linux was born in a world of proprietary operating systems (remember OS2, Sun OS, and others?) These operating systems provided the interface between hardware developers and application software developers. The proprietary nature of the operating systems did not allow either of these entities to innovate at the rate required. In 1991, Linux was introduced as an open-source platform and soon grew in popularity. Today, Linux has significant market share in the commercial landscape, and in fact, the Linux ecosystem is larger than anything any single company (e.g. IBM) or country (e.g. China) can build. This begs the question: What makes Linux (or any open-source) successful?The lesson of open-source...

The modern teacher: longshoreman or transportation engineer?

February 14, 2018 The modern teacher: longshoreman or transportation engineer?

As we have discussed in previous articles (HERE) or the TED Talk (HERE), the current educational system largely views students as commodities into which knowledge is poured; similar to industrial manufacturing processes.The fundamental structure of the current model is driven by an antiquated economic imperative based on the premise of scarcity of instructors and classrooms. This is  no longer true. Also, the actual process of teaching occurs in a craftsman-like environment which has not changed for hundreds of years. As discussed in HERE, most industries start out with a craftsman-like model and then over time are optimized through continuous improvement processes and innovation. It is interesting to observe this transformation in the context of shipping -- and compare it to the education system.Fifty years ago, shipping was dominated by scenes reminiscent from classic movies such as “On the Waterfront," which featured longshoremen who provided the muscle to load and unload...

Decomposing and rearranging the education value stack

February 14, 2018

As we have discussed in previous articles (HERE) or the TED Talk (HERE),the current educational system largely views students as commodities. Knowledge is "poured into them," similar to an industrial manufacturing process. The fundamental structure of the current education delivery model is outmoded. It is primarily driven by an economic concept from the last century based on scarcity of instructors and classrooms. This is no longer true. Also, the actual process of teaching occurs in a craftsman-like model which has not changed for hundreds of years.Today, the current education system has evolved to a point where academics are only one of the services provided by current K-12 schools. It is helpful (and eye-opening) to examine the services provided by schools in more detail and pinpoint areas within the organization which could be optimized.Conventional schools build a value stack which primarily consists of five layers:Transportation Services: Bus service to schoolFacilities...

Impediments to progress in revolutionizing education, why Clayton Christensen was right, change will come from the outside

February 14, 2018

Clayton Christensen is well-known for documenting the impact of disruptive technologies and companies into the existing ecosystem. Nearly always, the story consists of an upstart in a massive market which everyone is convinced will never upset the business models of the titans of the day. Examples include E-commerce (e.g. Amazon) for the whole retail sector or internet companies for the physical media companies, and others.The titans of the day can see the change coming but still cannot change. Why? Often change involves deep structural modifications within the organization and typically, the fundamental business model. One must manage this change while transitioning from the old business model. This is almost an impossible task because it is akin to changing the engine while the car is running. Thus, the process of change is externally-driven by creative destruction; the new model comes from the outside and the old model declines.As we have discussed in previous articles (HERE)...

Teacher as craftsman, the central dysfunction in the educational system

February 14, 2018

The term "craftsman" engenders an image of a highly-skilled individual who is at the top of their art. Thus, it may be a surprise to learn that modern capitalism actively works to minimize the role of craftsmen. Why?A large collection of craftsmen deliver variable quality product/service at a high cost and very little retained intellectual property. Thus, almost every industry known to man starts out with a craftsman model and then capitalism drives a process where quality of delivery is increased while cost is reduced. This is achieved by building intellectual capital which is predictably reusable. Typically, the model produces various value/price points which can be consumed by the customer based on their needs. A simple example to consider is food preparation where one can consume services ranging from a private chef to McDonald's. The intellectual capital contained in the McDonald's process is considerable and leads to predictable delivery with low costs.As we have discussed...

Teaching the student instead of the subject, yes... that is exactly what computers enable

February 14, 2018

Humans are natural learners and every human learns in a different way. However, as we have discussed in previous articles (HERE) or the TED Talk (HERE), the current educational system largely views students as commodities into which knowledge is poured -- similar to an industrial manufacturing process. The fundamental structure of the current model is driven by an economic imperative from the last century based on the scarcity of the instructor and classroom, which is no longer true today.The consequences of the current model are that the different learning paces or styles of students are lost. This is especially important in STEM fields where accumulative knowledge is required to reach the next step in the learning process. Also, the oracle model of teaching creates a largely one-way relationship between the student and teacher, which benefits neither participant. The students view the teachers as merely conveying facts, as opposed to instilling the tools to obtain the knowledge...

Impediments to Progress (3/3)

December 11, 2017

 “The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”-- George WillAs we mentioned in our last article, a self-paced flexible model for instruction is eminently possible with today’s internet technology. In fact, schools such as FLVS and private companies such as Lynda.com, have shown the viability of this approach. However, the vast majority of educational establishments have not changed but rather are offering a less flexible model at a higher price. What are the impediments to progress?The reasons are many, but the fundamental issue has been the teacher practices in a "craftsman" model, which is the "gold standard" in this marketplace. With this model, the issues manifest themselves in two major ways ... incentives and local decision-making.Teachers, like all human beings, are resistant to change. For most veteran teachers, the incremental cost of teaching a class using the same way next year is fairly low. However, teaching the class in a new manner incurs a large incremental...

Teaching the Student instead of the Subject (2/3)

December 11, 2017 Teaching the Student instead of the Subject (2/3)

“In kindergarten, we teach the child, while in high school, they teach the subject.” -- Julie Young, founder of the Florida Virtual School In our first article, we explored the economic underpinnings of the current educational system and concluded that it was built on the fundamental premise that there is scarcity relative to the instructor/classroom. Now, we consider the circumstance where the real cost of access to instruction and classroom can be dramatically reduced!The amazing fact is that with the advent of the technology, both of these fundamental premises can be radically improved through the use of the internet and software technology. How? Instruction: Instruction with assessment can be captured in machine readable/executable form and delivered in a scalable manner.Classroom: The classroom can be moved from the physical to the virtual. The implications of this shift are profound because now the model can be moved from one with a focus on the instructor/school to a...

Sir Ken Robinson was right, schools do kill creativity, but actually he missed the point. (1/3)

December 7, 2017 Sir Ken Robinson was right, schools do kill creativity, but actually he missed the point. (1/3)

In his famous TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson indicted the current school system with the provocative title, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” In a very entertaining manner, he outlined the failings of the current system -- especially in terms of the creative arts. His thesis was that the current system was set up to service the industrial age and just will not be sufficient for the information age. He offered no practical solution for how to effect this change in a scalable manner. Chart 1: Scarcity and the Current Educational System Sir Ken Robinson was certainly right about the symptoms but one wonders if he missed the core cause. Our assessment is that the core cause are the economic underpinnings of the current system. In a series of articles, we will outline: The economic underpinnings for the current system and impact on the studentThe outlines for a solution to make progressThe significant structural issues to reforming the current systemInitial steps one could take to start...