Sunday, August 1, 2010

Are the Very Nature of Organizations Shifting Too?

Are the Very Nature of Organizations Shifting Too?

Up until now, we really had no good way for two way, back and fourth, communication. Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everyone makes you think about the implications of seamless two-way communication. The book is really about “organizing without organizations.” The idea of “flash mobs” not only as a type of art form but as an unstoppable and unpredictable tool for political protest is discussed. The first chapter goes into great detail about how a woman lost her phone in a cab and a nefarious person used it and would not return it. The police would not even charge the person with theft even after they knew who had the phone and was using it illegally. Charges were not filed until a friend of the woman who “lost” her phone helped put pressure on the thieves and the police. This whole first chapter is deeper than just the use of social networking tools for justice. Chapter one talks about our new forms of communication, race and right verse wrong.

Chapter four of this book is titled “Publish, then Filter.” This chapter discusses the whole shift, whether good or bad, in the concept of how media has changed. It used to be that media outlets decided what was news and then publish what they felt was important. Now, it seems with the advent of many web tools that publishing and then filtering is the norm. This chapter and subsequent chapters goes on to talk about the amateurization of professions that were once done by only professionals. Take journalism for an example. Every blogger is a journalist in a sense. Even during my short and sporadic “career” as a blogger, I too have been accused of being that amateur. I was told that I may not be taking jobs away from other people but I was part of the narcissistic communicators who blogged and that thought they had something to say. Just by my blogging I was some how taking away from others who actually had real things to say. I am paraphrasing.

Many of the shifts in how media works today comes down to cost. The word cost is used but does not entirely refer to finances. All organizations, whether it is Little League Baseball or Ford Motor Company, have costs that occur due to being organized. Just the enforcement of rules, scheduling and the shear need to stay organized costs money. Not only does it cost money but staying together or organized is priority one, which, in turn, means that goals and objectives can be no higher than priority number 2. According the Shirky, these organizational costs are called transactional costs. When an ad hoc, grassroots group gets together to work on a project and has no need to organize, the group can put it’s main purpose as it’s number one goal. Many familiar with technology can compare Shirky’s ideas with many open-source software projects, which he does clearly in this book. Many tools now-a-days can allow people to work on a goal without ever meeting one another or organizing, at least in a traditional sense.

Journalism, movie rentals and publishing are causing a domino effect of changes on every industry involving these mediums. It is easy to see how the changes in publishing are changing school text books and libraries. Technology and social media are spearheading these changes. With many of the points that Clay Shirky makes in his book the face of organizations are changing. Not before reading this book, did I ever consider the idea of an “open-source” organization. I’m not sure we totally know how the change in communication and technology will shape the future of organizations. One thing is certain, if organizations become increasingly a thing of the past, educators well have to take a greater role in teaching students to be entrepreneurial or at the very least help students acquire the skills to be their own boss.

This has far reaching implications for education. Basically, education is free now. With MIT and schools like Stanford publishing all or most of their courses online a student can avoid the debt of college. All the “none formal school” attending student has to do is prove that he or she has the skills to do what it takes to succeed in his or her desired profession. Here Comes Everyone says to me that we really no longer need to organize into schools and in many ways we are wasting tax payer dollars requiring the public to pay for transactional costs. I know that there are teachers out there that will fear this. They should not. There is absolutely no reason that the same teacher that fears their job being taken away by an online teacher cannot become the online teacher.


Don said...

Good writing and thinking and I think that the future is going to be more open and yes, there will be resistance to that just like there is now. The open "ad hoc" model is getting traction and the downturn in the economy is one but there is a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo inside many traditional education organizations. Textbook manufacturers and sellers still have most of the politicians in their pocket, but that might not always be the case. The wiki/wikipedia model along with the open universities will eventually prevail.

How do you think we can help students become entrepreneurs? What is needed?

ItIsIRick said...

First, thanks for commenting on my blog. I think there are a few ways to teach kids to be entrepreneurs. One way is to have kids sell things that they make on eBay. They could be educational things like books about local history, or the creating of some product that uses recycled materials, which could have greater implications for our environment. I am also a big fan of modeling. I think it would be a great idea for teachers to model being entrepreneurial. I also like the idea of an investment club. There are many things that could be done.

I feel that every entrepreneurial undertaking is a project based learning experience.

Pelikan said...

Your writing is very sound and does a very good job of keeping the reader interested in the topic. Additionally, it makes me want to read the book.

I can agree that in many ways we are becoming a more decentralized world. With the advent of the telecommuter, of which I am one, and the like, we have pushed organizations to greater distances. I believe that this is a functional way to manage organizations that want greater reach without greater infrastructure.

Doing it in an educational environment, however. will result in education only for those that are driven for success at an early age. I would ask yourself if you would have been able to stay even remotely focused on your education without the structure provided by the institutions you attended? I agree that there need to be changes in educational practices, but believe that the overall level of stupidity nationwide would rise rapidly without mandated attendance to a structured environment.

For that matter, can you really maintain consistent progress towards a longer term goal without the burden of maintaining organization? Even in the world of open-source software there are large corporate entities that drive the results to market or create new platforms for open-source. Generating more entrepeneurial spirit would definitely be a positive, but again you are creating an environment that will appeal to the top 20% of self-driven students.

Anyway, great blog Rick. Hope to see more of the same in the future.

ItIsIRick said...

Mr. Pelican,

First, thanks so much for taking the time to read and then comment on my blog. Also, thanks for the kind words about my writing. I think that it really is the job of a reviewer to help make the reader of the review want to read the book. I am glad I was able to accomplish that with my writing.

You are right. I was an unfocused, unconcerned student all through my k-12 schooling. My own education was not a top priority. I remember dropping my pencil in second grade just because it would take 30 seconds to pick it up and it would give me something to do. Basically, I was bored. You are right in that if I were to take online classes and the only structure I had was the structure I enforced on myself, I would have not functioned well and most likely never graduated. With that said, I barely graduated as it is. Although I went to school and had pretty good attendance, I had dropped out somewhere around 10th grade. I kept going to school. I played the game and went through the motions. I was even on sports teams. The fact is I was so bored and uninterested in the content or the delivery style of that content that my thoughts were on Friday night.

I think that most of our troubles in education would be resolved if schooling was more interesting. I see it in many schools and this is my take on it. There is a fine line. We want kids to be alert and retain content but we don’t want them so awake that they are active to the point of making poor choices. This philosophy about, what I call, the “fine attentiveness line” stinks. We want to teach using a constructivist, kinesthetic type approach but we only will teach that way if the goal of learning, with extreme certainty, is achieved. If learning is not achieved than teachers will not risk it and they probably shouldn’t. If learning is not a certainty for most students, kinesthetic learning risks having kids active and awake with the possibility of them, not keeping their hands to themselves, distracting from the learning process of others or being disrespectful to the teacher. All principals say “the classroom teacher should take care of most of their discipline issues.” So it makes sense that to avoid discipline issues we teach how we were taught in the lowest risk environment as possible, which unfortunately often is a type of teaching that echos the saying “let sleeping dogs lie.”

Schools can become interesting, whether online or face to face. All the teachers I know have the skill, rapport, personality, knowledge and the caring heart to facilitate content in an interesting way beyond a level yet obtained. There are stumbling blocks to pursuing student interests and allowing teachers to teach what they are passionate about.

My final two points are that most teachers do the best they can with what they have in their situations. Lastly, I would have functioned better and maybe not have “dropped out” if teachers facilitated my learning in an interesting way, which in turn may have helped me get to the spot I am now more quickly. A shift occurred for me when I was about 36 years old. I started to have teachers who “lit the fire” instead of “filled the bucket.” I am now a life long learner and love to pursue topics like, outer-space, inner-space, and technology for the same reasons people climb Mount Everest--because it is there.

Hall Davidson said...

Nice observations here. But here's another: Be wary of the unintended consequences of this movement. It will not first arrive via individual teachers it will arrive via proprietary schools: a real threat to educational excellence. They are now "a race to the bottom" (quote from Margaret Reiter, CA attorney general office in congressional testimony: ) Note to Hiltzik,of the Los Angeles Times: "the problem is not just a few bad, the abuses are...egregious, widespread, and persistent over time" 7/2010. We really, earnestly need to bring these online talents into the bricks and mortar schools. Professional development moves this in the right direction--to not do so is a classic penny-wise but pound-foolish!

ItIsIRick said...

Mr. Davidson,

I am thrilled that such a highly respected leader in the Ed Tech community would read and comment on my blog. For that I thank you. The main point that you brought up is also good and one I had not considered. Without reading the link that you posted, is it safe to say that there is a discrepancy between the talent pool of face to face and online teachers on average? I cannot argue with this point. There is a smaller pool of online teachers than there are face to face. It seems, from my experience, that there are more hoops to jump through to become an online teacher beyond the normal state certification. This hoop may be the thing that is contributing to the greater talent pool in online teaching. I can also understand that some teachers may just be done jumping through hoops since they have jumped through so many already. To me it comes down to dispositions. Basically, the teachers that have the disposition to continue to jump through hoops are the same teachers who go beyond the normal call of duty. This disposition is the same characteristic of good teachers. I would also argue that good face to face teachers will also be good online teachers. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true.

Pelikan said...

Rick and Mr. Davidson,

I have to say that in my experience, online teachers are often also brick and mortar teachers that are supplementing there incomes. The greatest difference is in the freedom that a teacher has in an online environment versus the brick and mortar setting. Online students are also more engaged due to the fact that they are either requiring the class for advancement or graduation or simply driven to learn. Another impact is the inability for an online student to disrupt the learning of the rest of the class. Brick and mortar teachers have been burdened with mandated student achievements that are not evaluated based on individual growth but each subsequent year of students growing as compared to their predecessors. We have made teachers accountable for virtually ever aspect of a child's development, but taken all empowerment away. We basically ask them to slay the dragon with a wash cloth. I recently saw a comic that illustrated this by showing the reaction to a failing grade in two different time periods. First, in the 1950's it shows the parents standing facing their child holding a paper with an F. The parents are screaming at the child that the grade is unacceptable. In 2010, it shows the parents and the child facing the teacher holding the paper with the F and all 3 are screaming at the teacher that the grade is unacceptable. This illustrates the shift in accountability from parents and students to the teachers. Fixing our educational system is not about the teachers, it is about how the system itself is run.

Rick your review was great, and I apologize for shifting to an educational discussion, but we need to be careful about looking at such a large issue from any single point of view. I will try to step down from my soap box now.

ItIsIRick said...

Mr. Pelikan,

Never worry about shifting issues to education on my blog. The whole title of this blog is "Ed Tech Man." Ed is the first thing because the primary focus is education.

I am going to disagree with one small thing that you said.

"We have made teachers accountable for virtually ever aspect of a child's development, but taken all empowerment away."

We have, undoubtedly taking the empowerment way from teachers. The part of the above statement that I slightly disagree with is the fact that "we have made teachers accountable for virtually every aspect of a child's development." I think it is more like we are holding teachers accountable for only things that can be measured easily on a one size fits all test.

In New York State they are trying to go to a "Value Added" model for students. Value Added does what you said. It is the idea that students, no matter where they are, are measured on improvement and not the old model of pass/fail. Here is the new problem with value added. To make sure a student is progressing there must be more tests. And with more tests, naturally comes more teachers teaching to the test.

I'm enjoying this discussion