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The Premises

Welcome back.

In the first post I introduced the primary purpose of Edushift which is to support like-minded people interested in helping our systems of public education to move forward.

But several questions immediately come to mind; namely, what exactly does the change that we are looking for in public education look like, and why does the change we are looking for often seem so difficult to actually put in place? After all, if we could answer these two basic questions, wouldn’t we be in a better position to actually build our network of “like-minded people interested in helping our systems of public education to move forward”?

I also mentioned in the first post that my background in public education has been specific to applied research and planning. This means that, while I appreciate the value of research, I don’t endorse research as simply a means to do more research. Few of us have the time or inclination to read research reports that have little to offer in the way of legitimate applications to real life situations.

No, I like the kind of research that is designed and actually applied in conjunction with action plans. This is the type of research that is undertaken with a specific purpose in mind so that approaches can be evaluated and results can be measured within the context of an agreed upon outcomes (bear with me - I’m getting to the point here).

So, to move this process along I need to take a moment to identify, up front, some of the premises that I am using. By “premise” I mean my foundational beliefs – the platform that is being used as a benchmark for everything else to follow. I think that taking the time to do this is the right thing to do. After all, you may not agree with any or all of these premises. That’s OK – it’s a free country. But at least they will help to explain why certain approaches are taken in response to the primary purpose of Edushift.

So, here we go. There are three.

Premise Number 1

Students and parents will increasingly expect the personalization of educational services

Global communications now allow us, with speed and efficiency, to access practically anything we need to meet our individual needs. In a nutshell, we are empowered to believe in our indisputable right to receive personalized services. That’s why, for example, new business concepts such as The Power of Pull by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown are attempting to redefine how new markets can be identified and supported through communication networks.

So, with all of the evidence of this new world order, is it reasonable to believe that public education will somehow remain immune from being asked for the same degree of personalization that is becoming commonplace in virtually every other area of private and public service delivery? I don’t think so.

Our students and their parents want personalized educational service and, in this new world order of global communications, will have increasingly numerous opportunities to choose from if they perceive that their needs are not being met by their local community public school.

Premise Number 2

Technology is a support, not a solution.

From the blackboard and ball point pen to the hand held calculator and computer lab there have been many technological introductions to schools over the years. But simply introducing a new technology is not an end in itself. New technologies don’t work in a vacuum. The success or failure of their application depends on the knowledge and skill of the teacher and motivation of the student to apply them to their learning.

What is unique about this era in the evolution of education is that students, not schools, are now the keepers of technology. Personal devices have become inextricably linked with mainstream communication and media. So computer work stations, for example, are quickly becoming obsolete. But simply “allowing”students to bring their personal devices to school, while a step in the right direction, will only enhance learning if these technologies are applied in new educational contexts. The technology doesn’t replace the learning process. It must work in conjunction with the learning process. Otherwise there’s no point in using it at all.

Premise Number 3

Structure Drives Behavior

Ultimately, the success of any change process relies on the willingness and ability of people to change their behavior; to re-align their approaches and habits with what is being asked of them. But we also know that simply asking people to change doesn’t work very well. This is because humans are creatures of habit. We become accustomed to doing something a particular way and are hesitant to change even if we are shown, with evidence, that there is a better way. I cannot convince you to change your behavior any more easily than you can convince me to change mine. We are the only ones who can decide for ourselves to behave differently than we are accustomed to.

However, if the structures in which we live, work and play can be changed, we humans often have a stronger motivation to adapt over time. While this is not easy either, it can happen if there is a good understanding and agreement on what is trying to be achieved and if the right conditions are put in place to support the change effort. Behavior doesn’t drive structural change. Structure drives behavioral change.

So, there you have it; the three foundational premises from Edushift can proceed. Obviously, in the posts to follow, there will be more information and examples offered to build upon these concepts. Once again, their purpose is to test the validity of “the why”,“the what” and “the how” of change that we are asking from public education.

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