I want to spend a few minutes talking about vision. It’s been on my mind a lot lately. I think you’ll see the tie in to Christmas, New Years, and the preparation for a new Presidential Administration on the horizon…you tell me.
So, as you look around for presents, do you have anything you really want? Maybe it’s that place in life where I find myself, but there isn’t anything (that anyone realistically can afford) that I want. And it’s driving my wife nuts this Christmas. (Speaking of Keena, she’s doing GREAT this Christmas!) Oh, there’s the usual suspects – shirts for work, sporting events tickets, and iTunes downloads for my trips. But there isn’t anything like I had when I was younger. Nothing like a new trumpet or guitar is on this year’s list. No disc golf bag made the cut. I don’t even want a new truck…I got a new truck last year and I still love it! (Thanks Toyota) But I don’t blame my place in life…I blame the lack of vision of companies that you and I know and love. I blame Microsoft and Mac. I blame Brookstone and Hammacher Schlemmer. I blame “innovative” companies who are afraid to truly innovate.
Case in point. Let me give you a brief vision of my “iPod” world. Keep in mind this isn’t the 30 year off vision, this is the vision of what life could be…no, SHOULD be today with my iPod. (I LOVE my iPod Touch by the way…) So, my wife and I have a Bose docking station for the iPod. (Love that too) You just set the iPod in the dock and listen to rich music while the iPod charges, making changes with the handy remote. Love it. But, then I go downstairs. The speaker is plugged into a troublesome outlet, so the Bose stays upstairs. But I want to listen to my iPod with my home stereo. Ok…now, I have to add a headphone jack into my stereo. So while I can listen to music, I drain my iPod battery and dealing with volume and changing tracks is a pain. But then I want to go to my car and continue listening. Hmmm…even more difficult. Why can’t I just slide the iPod into my truck’s stereo and have the same effect as the Bose? Including all controls on my radio? Because it doesn’t exist today. (At least not in any catalogue I’ve ever seen!) Sure, I can use a radio frequency to podcast to my stereo. If I can find one that’s available…and if it’s working…and if…
Then, say I want to come home and watch my downloaded movies on my tv. Well, of course that’s possible too –if you have all of the right equipment, cords, and adapters. Ugh. My VISION of an iPod word is simple. Docking stations on the tv, the stereo receiver, and my car stereo. Boom, I’m now carrying my DVD player, Radio (with Pandora thanks to the cool Apps), and CD player in my hand at all times. Not to mention my date book, phone (iPhone), and email. 1 tool for almost every electronic need I have.
Yes, my longer term vision of this iPod world includes doing all of this wirelessly / remotely, but I’m looking for a quicker solution. Is this possible today? Technically yes (except the car part). Of course, my wife won’t let me spend the thousands of dollars I would have to in order to make it come true, plus it doesn’t work perfectly.
My frustration with the lack of iPodness I experience today is what parents / educators / students experience every day too as far as school is concerned. Nuts. How fantastic would it be to give students of every level and every age the ability to learn whenever, wherever they wanted with utter strategic thinking and intentional learning assets? Imagine this kind of world…
A 12 year old gets sick and needs to spend 2 months at home, but is still capable of learning. The problem is that this 12 year old has some learning deficiencies. So, he needs to go online to take classes. But, that online system should be able to help ascertain his deficiencies and pull in new pieces of content for him that would help. The system should also adapt to his learning style for some (NOT ALL) of the pieces so as to help him learn how to make use of his learning style in non-learning style centric cases.
A 25 year old administrative assistant realizes that she doesn’t want to do this anymore. She wants to take classes at night and on weekends so as to take care of her family from more than an accredited ITT type of school. She wants to get a degree from her local University that she loves and is loyal to so she can wear the cool “Bears” sweatshirts with pride.
4 doctors want to get education around a new procedure from the “guru” in the field. She is in Egypt and they are in New Jersey. Unfortunately it won’t work to fly to Africa and she only has a day or two free here and there. So, they need a class using three dimensional holograms that show how to cut, cauterize, search, etc. This class would allow these images to be blown up, rotated, and split into parts.
Perhaps you see my dilemma. Very much like my wish for an iPod world, this educational model is technically possible to some degree. However, the road blocks are substantial. Forget about the cost for a moment…there are other issues at play here.
Our 12 year old who needs specific instruction with help from an online system is out of luck. Yes, it’s possible to create what is described here, but it doesn’t exist today. Not in a usable form for multiple subjects at various levels. True, holistic adaptive learning is a great idea, but not much more today. Plus, the time it takes to create these learning paths is tremendous.
Our 25 year old probably can’t get her degree in the fashion she would like. See, there are still accrediting agencies out there who have a “50% rule” – this means that students must complete 50% of their course work in person, not online. The schools who don’t have that rule to comply with, don’t often get buy-in from their full time faculty. Most online teachers are adjuncts (and some are truly better than their full time counterparts by the way…) because tenured profs don’t care to learn a new way to teach. Plus, not all traditional schools offer every class a person needs to complete their degree at night and on weekends. Then there is Congress who just passed the Higher Education Act. This act requires an institution to know the person at the end of the computer is who they say they are. (Of course, technically that’s impossible and realistically the rule is ridiculous…if you’d like to debate the point, I can show you dozens of examples of in-person cheating and fraud that are not policed at all by Universities or the Government as well as several acceptable methods to secure user credibility.) And if she did find the courses to take and a school that works, the quality of the classes is going to be hit or miss every single time…
How about our doctors? What can they do in order to stay current and helpful? Nothing more than they do today. This technology exists, but the cost factor is outrageous. Plus, hooking up the SME (Subject Matter Expert) with an organization that presents content this way is very difficult.
In other words, my vision for the education future that could be today is hard too. But I have hope! I do believe it’s not only possible…but it’s coming! A landscape where Web 2.0 tools are merged into general curriculum and thinking without just being the ‘cool’ factor of blogs and wikis. (Conference speakers PLEASE help teachers understand that!) I see a future where interaction with multiple points are used to educate more effectively – interaction with tools, with peers, with content, with assessments, and with the instructor should be used to paint a realistic portrait of the learner. I see a time when objectives and outcomes actually mean something to the school, the teacher, and the learner. I picture technology bridging gaps in all classrooms. And I also see a United States education system that is once again on top of the world.
So…Steve Jobs, I hope you read this. Secretary Spellings, head of the Department of Education, I pray you do too. My entertainment vision isn’t important to anyone but me. My education dream is important to everyone in the world.
Merry Christmas everyone. But more importantly, may we all have a vision inspired New Year.
Looking for a conference speaker who can help you find vision? Need someone to talk to your group about education, technology, or communication? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!