When you start a project from absolute zero, which also describes the level of skills you need to complete the project, you get to collect lots of unexpected learning experiences.
Last August, we launched the pilot for experimentQ podcast. This 6-month segment was designed to test the format, fine-tune our research questions, give a taste of content schedule to potential partners, as well as learn the technical side of video and audio production. As I write this, I can say we had no idea of the amount of detail and work that goes into organising a 12-month podcast world tour, which by the way starts on March 1st, 2018.
From August 2017 to February 2018 we interviewed 9 innovators within the education space, and one more interview is on the way to complete the initial pilot goal of 10 guests. Below is what we learned, shortly, about the state and the changes happening in education.
1. Demand for freedom
As the world realizes we need urgent changes in education to adapt to new social and economic challenges, more people advocate for freedom and tools to empower every system stakeholder (pupils, teachers, parents, community, businesses etc) to take an active role in designing and delivering better learning experiences. In short, we need to de-monopolize the government role in designing and delivering "the only valid form of education", and encourage a more diverse "market" for learning. This de-monopolization should start with a bigger voice and influence given to children and local communities.
See episode 03, 05, 08.
Education does not simply resume to teachers and classrooms. As we dig deeper into the system and meet more stakeholders from various backgrounds, we get to understand the multitude of disciplines and institutions that have a stake in this cake we call education. Hence, the resistance to change and lack of consensus - everyone holds to their sweet piece.
To name just a few disciplines, when we talk about education we shall also think - economics, politics, social welfare, psychology, infrastructure, real estate, publishing, technology, research, healthcare etc.
I found it interesting when, in episode 09, we discussed that to some degree schools serve as a replacement for babysitting, since parents have "their own life" and prefer to outsource education to the government or private service providers. Besides institutions where people master skills and sell them on the market to make a living (according to the plan), we shall think of the side effects and social roles the education system plays in every community.
3. Political indoctrination
When the Prussian model of mass education (the foundation of our current system) was introduced about 2 centuries ago, it was regarded as a matter of national security, competitiveness and military discipline. At the same time, the western governments were affected by the Protestant movement and needed a way to keep social obedience by replacing or slightly updating existing social values, previously curated by the Church.
Today, in a moderate way, the education system still serves as a way to pass on the social norms, historical pride, political vision, economic ambitions and the national identity of a state. For proof, just look at the history curriculum and you will find that every country has its own views of how events developed in the past and in no way are they disregarding the actions and the heroism of their predecessors (with few exceptions).
In the globalized world we experience today, with all its challenges and opportunities, it will be increasingly difficult for governments to promote a "pure national doctrine", via classrooms.
4. Insider or outsider change
Buckminster Fuller famously said: “You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”
The debate whether the education system can be changed from whining or by alternatives coming from outsiders has a long lasting history and opinionated advocates. As an example we can look at the views of two different thought leaders: Ken Robinson who is supporting the great work teachers do to change the system and advocates for more resources focused on student-teacher relationships and Ivan Ilich who greatly inspired the movement of unschooling, thanks to his book "Deschooling Society" published in 1971 and who advocated for the abolition of mass schooling and with it the Ministries of Education.
*We will get back to this debate many times in the coming 12 month.
5. Twenty first century skills
Everyone is going nuts arguing about the "top lists" and the exact skills people will need in order to succeed in the 21st century. Just Google "21st century skills" and to make things even more dramatic, add the debate of Artificial Intelligence (AI) versus humans jobs.
There is one consensus though, most people agree for the need to "learn to learn" and adapt to constant changes. The team at Minerva (upcoming episode 09) goes a bit more in detail by proposing 4 fundamental competencies that each of us should master - thinking critically, thinking creatively, communicating effectively, and interacting effectively.
6. Learning cities
Everyone we talked to agreed that for effective learning classrooms are not enough and that we shall explore the surrounding communities or the villages and cities as wholistic learning playgrounds, to make sure children apply the concepts they hear about. We are looking forward to document several projects that involve the city in their learning experience designs.
7. Science and/or tech
We heard some valuable criticism that many edtech startups lack a holistic understanding of human development, the science of learning and the complexity of education, coming mostly from academic folks. Even with that being true, there is a lot of hope in the general public that technology will enable better learning experiences for children of all ages, specifically via adaptive learning, dynamic skill assessment, distance coaching and MOOCs.
At experimentQ, we are particularly focused on ways to capture informal (outside classroom) learning experiences and to find ways for assessment and validation of skills based on a multitude of learning sources and human development insights.
At least two guests on the show advocated for dismantling of Education Ministry or mass schooling, favouring empowerment of local communities and parents to organize they own learning systems, via home schooling and community learning centers - similar to amusement parks or public museums.
It is also interesting to ask ourselves if mass education is really providing equal access to economic opportunities or it's further dividing social classes and promoting discrimination based on academic performance.
9. Bonus: storytelling superpowers
When we started this project we only had a zoom H4nPro audio recorder and a smartphone. After watching few tutorials on how to use the basic Apple MacBook tools for audio production, we thought this is totally doable. Looking back, it was the right decision to jump unprepared with a burning passion and a playful mindset, because this kept us humble, curious, and open to learning a lot, every single day.
Few months into it and Eureka! - this is the best time ever for a project like experimentQ. There are so so many amazing tools available to create good quality stories, engaging with like-minded people and having high research value, which we aim for.
Below is a list of all our current storytelling and project tools we use at experimentQ.
- Adobe Creative Cloud
- Garage Band
- Google G-Suite
- Instagram / Twitter / Facebook
- Canon 200D
- Zoom Q8 / H4n Pro
- MacBook Pro
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