Hi everyone, I hope it’s ok to start posting questions and thoughts. I’ve only read the introduction so far and my experience with thinking about education is pretty new so please take my two statements with a grain of salt!
Firstly, I suppose I’m more of a tinkerer. I make educational videos on control theory. They aren’t intended to be a complete source of learning, or provide assessment, or anything else associated with LMS’s. My hope for them is that they are used in two ways; as supplemental support for struggling, but motivated students looking for another explanation, and for educators who want to incorporate them into their existing curriculum. These videos are viewed 10’s-100’s of thousands of times, so they definitely have many learners, but the learners are guided by their local experts and not an algorithm or by the videos themselves. So, it’s a many to many relationship. I feel that they are still part of EdTech, but based on the requirement of “few experts”, I don’t think this type of resource is considered part of learning at scale ecosystem. Is that the correct way to view this?
Secondly, if I understand the prompt correctly, I think the complexity of schooling organizations is what makes it necessarily conservative. To the engineer in me, it feels like designing a successful educational system is an optimization problem. We’re trying to maximize some objective(s); where we can loosely think of objectives as the things that benefit the students, the families, and the educators. There is the obvious objective, prepare students for what comes next (like more schooling or to enter the workforce), but I imagine there are (possibly) hundreds of additional objectives beyond this. Things like providing a social experience, and keeping students physically active, and feeding them, and watching them during the day, and so on.
And just like a complex engineering project, these objectives can be in conflict with each other. So, rather than find the perfect optimal solution that maximizes each of these, the result is something that balances each of them as best we can. Which I imagine could be a different balance depending on location and culture and many other things. And the way we’ve arrived at this point (I believe), and the way we continue to make improvements is where small and manageable iterations slowly change the system over time. These small adjustments allow people to easily test a hypothesis (e.g. “my change is going to improve the balance of each of the objectives”) without much risk because not much is changed and would then have to be undone if the hypothesis was false. But this type of evolutionary design can end up with a system that has hidden benefits. It has evolved into something complex enough that we don’t have a good holistic view of everything that it is doing for the students, the families, and the educators.
Therefore, it is really hard to totally overhaul a complex system from scratch like this without really understanding and starting from the objectives of the original system. And if you try, you risk missing an objective that you didn’t realize was important or didn’t know about. And this has a lot of risks associated with it since it’s much harder to undo a large change if we find out that the solution isn’t as optimal across the board as what we had before. So, it’s probably better to stay conservative and make incremental changes if you don’t have a good set of objectives, rather than make a large change and risk the future of the unfortunate students that have to test it out!
Again, this is from my experience in engineering. I don’t really know the state of education. Maybe researchers know all of the benefits of the current schooling organizations and the EdTech that has failed in the past either didn’t start from those objectives or maybe they just tried to tackle a problem that can’t completely be met with technology.
Thanks for reading all of this and I’m looking forward to what others have to say about it and the rest of the prompts!