The "Decoupling" of Education and School: Where Do We Begin?

As always, Will Richardson packed the room to something that just might worry a fire marshal. From the program’s prospective:

The next ten years promise to be hugely disruptive for the traditional idea of school as more and more alternative learning platforms are created and expanded. This conversation will focus not on technology but on the larger shifts that will have to evolve into a different role in our society. Driving the discussion will be quotes from Allan Collins and Richard Halverson’s recent book, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology.
Will opened his session to note he has 3 slide and a lot of conversation both virtually in Elluminate (@45 participants) and 40 in person. The birth of this conversation was Collins and Halverson’s recent book. Richardson said this book made sense to him as a conversation that schools to engage in to exist. The book makes the case for a third shift from apprenticeship and standardized learning to an individual education environment that threatens schools as we know them. What he hopes we can do is think deeply about:

  1. challenges the present moment present us as implications for society for those who can/not take advantage of the changes (the equity issue);
  2. develop some kind of framework that lists the top problems schools have to address because they are coming or are already here. If you are not in a discomfort zone now, then you are not paying attention.

First Quotation Excerpt: schools will have less to do with education;
Second Quotation Excerpt: school systems cannot adapt to emergence of new forms of teaching and learning out side of school;
Third Quotation Excerpt: if educators cannot successfully integrate new technologies into school, then students with the means and the ability will pursue their learning outside of the public school.


  1. Are schools becoming social/psychological centers as a piece of the community aside from what we currently see as a learning center?
  2. Schools are artifacts of our larger social organization. Will change encompass all kids?
  3. Will lack of equity cause a lack of achievement?
  4. New v. good technology: what do we choose?
  5. How do we create better learning for students?

Group Brainstorming:

  1. How do we bring reluctant teachers/students on board?
  2. What kind of curricular change; what is change and what kind should we make that is relevant? What is it that we need and how do we know?
  3. What should we be preparing students for in the 21st century?
  4. Education is becoming more about facts than process, find, and express?
  5. Does having a window into the world overstate the importance of the impact of technology on education?
  6. Should there be a connection between K-12 and Post-Secondary?

Reporting Out:

  1. What does an educated person look like?
  2. What are the essential practice of teachers where students are learning outside of school?
  3. Where does socialization and relationship occur outside of school?
  4. How are we going to shift the expectations for schools from all of our constituents?
  5. How do we change policy to support more flexible time and place learning?
  6. How does our thinking of a physical space change?
  7. How do we support the changing role of teachers?
  8. What is the role of the teacher?
  9. Do we really need a physical space?
  10. How do K-12 and higher ed have this conversation about change together?
  11. The shift is not about failing schools but an opportunity for kids to learn outside the traditional structure. So….
  12. What is the purpose of school? to produce high test scores, workplace, ethics, citizenship, warehousing kids?
  13. How do we teach kids ethics and citizenship (especially if students opt out of traditional school)?
  14. How do we continue to make school and/or learning community (outside walls) available to everybody?
  15. Is school a resource or something we do?
  16. How do we adapt our curriculum to the technologies that kids are already using?
  17. How do we ensure that every child has access to learning opportunities outside of school?
  18. How do we make school fun?
  19. What should be compulsory about school?
  20. How do we make sure that the weakest forms of traditional school don’t get ampflied by technology?
  21. How do we avoid the social justice implications of elitist model of education?
  22. How do we ensure those without privilege have equal access to quality education and opportunity?
  23. How do we become better equipped, both as individuals and as systems, to deal with change?
  24. What is preventing us from being adaptable to change?
  25. How do we rethink the reallocation of resources to support individualized instruction?
  26. Will be creating a new class of marginalized people with these shifts?
  27. What is the essential learning that schools impart?
  28. How do public schools prove that they are committed to educate all children?
  29. What risks are we willing to accept?
  30. What is our obligation to collaborate with other systems going through similar changes?
  31. How doe we measure or assess the effectiveness of individualizes self-directed learning (and credentialing) outside of school?
  32. How do you validate or evaluate informal learning?
  33. How do we help students discover their passions?
  34. Who is going to pay for equity of access to these environments?
  35. Why don’t we do the right thing?

People who have the ability to self-direct will have an advantage over those who cannot/do not. Richardson gets the sense that some kids will be left behind. We are living in an unclear, muddy moment. How do we make these questions part of the change? Can we make the bigger systemic change? If we can, what are we going to do? Can we create a critical mass by challenging the people we go back to?

Gary Stager posed the question early in this discussion, What if there is no problem? What can we create in the redesigning of education? Is the fall of the Berlin Wall a paradigm for today? Are we seeing the beginning of the tipping point where we can make a difference in our school systems to create change? Are the people making the decisions the people who should be making these decisions? More than school boards or administrators, teachers have the largest voice. Why are we not exercising it? And the answer from the conversation is the fear of losing a job or a school. What a shame.

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