Friday, 16 December 2011

Memory’s Role in Relation to the Learning “What Ifs”

Memory’s Role in Relation to the Learning “What Ifs”

The differences between working memory and long-term memory have been a focus of neuroscientists for the past 50 years.  What we believe today is that working memory deals with the calculable aspects of what we are doing, and is activated when information in the form of stimuli from both the environment and our long term memory coalesce into what we are thinking about.  Research has shown that neuron activation (excitation) appears to be at the center of this process. On the other hand, long-term memory appears to be the result of the synaptic connections that are made once a pattern has been detected and stored.  So while working memory is ‘visible’ as neurons light or fire, long-term memory is ‘powered’ by the connectivity of repetition.  Another way you might look at the differences is that working memory focuses on the functional and the immediate (note that a lit bulb provides functional light), while long-term memory focuses on the structural (how a series of lights is connected) and the established.

As mentioned in the last post, I want to speak to the fact that there are ways of building up to a point where the learner actively seeks to determine the “what ifs?” of study, regardless of whether there appears to be a natural aptitude or inclination to do so.  Many educators who are deeply committed to the value of inquiry may have smiled when I wrote, “Prove it – What’s proven – Can you improve? has shown again and again to work very well for young learners of all ability levels.”   Ironically, the proof holds that inquiry alone does not necessarily build you up to the proper “What ifs?” and what I’m about to say today will startle those who see finding answers to questions, as the default learning portal. 

The fact is, the vast majority of inquiry-centric supporters fail to understand that problem solving requires motivation (curiosity) to want to look for something, but just as importantly, an ability to recognize when the thing (hopefully the truth) being sought has been found.  Curiosity without a sense of competency will quickly die off.  For many educators, this is a problem that must be solved.  You can develop all kinds of intriguing problems, but if the knowledge base needed to recognize the answer isn’t there, the problem won’t get solved, and great frustration will be sure to follow.  Talk about a quick way way to kill curiosity.

Unfortunately, those entrenched in the inquiry camp have adopted the view that being able to remember knowledge is less important than how a person manipulates knowledge.  Why both aren’t equally important in their minds, I don’t know.  Of course for this to make any sense, a fundamental assumption must be made which is that the thing to be manipulated in our working memory (in this case knowledge) is actually present and recognizable to both the eye, and the mind’s eye, of the observer.  One must assume that an external representation (that which is observed) is the same as an internal representation (the working mind’s by-product) in order to de-emphasize the need for long-term memory as a primary resource for knowledge.  It would then be argued that we could now depend on other resources like the Internet to provide a presence substitute (I can always look up the answer) for dormant synaptic connections or non-frequented memories.

Neuroscientists will tell you this is a practical impossibility because our ability to recognize patterns is based on our memory storage system, which acts as a comparison center under “recognition” circumstances.  Our visual receptors are simply not enough.  Think of it this way; you can see the final score of a game, or you can see the score and the statistics, or you can watch the game film and review the statistics afterwards in order to prepare for your next game.  None of these would substitute for the memory you would have if you played the game.  How your brain works as a participant differs from when your brain is in an observer role.  The idea that the Internet can substitute for long-term memory (as opposed to support it) is where brain anatomy gets in the way of the inquiry emphasizer’s desire to prematurely get on to the “What ifs” without confirming that the learner will know if/when something is found.

This becomes a real problem for any educator who wants to build generative curriculum.  While trying to create the learning situation where noble learning pursuits can unfold, there is little attention given over to how pursuing the grail of executive and higher-order thinking can often lead to a fight with brain anatomy and neurocognitive structures.  While we structure a lesson with the best pedagogical outcomes in mind, the learner’s mind structure is often ignored.  Try as we might to emphasize a focus on balancing working and long-term memory, long-term memory’s pattern recognition function often interferes with, as much as it reconciles with, the environmental signals being manipulated in the learning moment in working memory.  Before getting too far along on this, maybe a quick refresher of what is going on in the mind of a thinker is in order.

In a brain study done at the University of Colorado on the functions of the pre-frontal cortex and basal ganglia on working memory, the authors focus on specific processing mechanisms that different regions of the brain perform.  Specifically they looked at tasking using working memory.  Aside from proposing what they believe working memory is, (temporarily storing and manipulating information needed for executing complex cognitive tasks) there is also an explanation of what is done:  Activation-based memory (certain neurons firing as a result of the need to maintain and update encoded information), and Cognitive control (contextual attention to task through specific actions to achieve task-relevant objectives).

The study holds important information because it speaks to two important aspects of memory control, namely the ability to update memory when new stimulus is introduced, and the ability to maintain focus on all information, including information from past memories.  Juggling new information with old information requires the thinker to block or inhibit interference and irrelevant distractors.  Of course this means figuring out what is relevant and what is irrelevant. 

The authors describe this in mechanistic terms.  The ability to regulate certain stimuli is seen as a selection process that requires information to be allowed in or blocked.  Their model suggests that that function is served by the basal ganglia when it “Gates”, or acts as a gate to new information being allowed to enter working memory.  “In short, one can think of the overall influence of the basal ganglia on the frontal cortex as ‘releasing the brakes’ for motor actions and other functions.” (Frank, Loughry, & O'Rielly, 2001)   They go on to speak to how the basal ganglion behaves as a movement and memory storage initiator even though it doesn’t control the detailed properties of the movements. 

So what are the implications for a subject curriculum designer determined to get to the “What ifs?” based on brain functionality?  First off, given the choice between allowing new information in and sticking with what we know from long-term memory, the bias tends to be to be to stick with the familiar (Wexler, 2008)This is due to the fact that we can predict with reasonable certainty what the outcome will be, because our pattern recognizers have built in connections based on what we have observed.   Working memory must reconcile this (what we know from the past) with the current environmental stimulus, and determine if the “brakes” can be eased (new information can be introduced and manipulated) so that updated thinking can occur.  Of course for some learners this is a choice fraught with danger, as the unknown holds no patterns, which means mistakes are a given.  Additionally, as a learner there may need to be a substantial amount of time given over to pattern results interpretation.   So the mistakes could be going on for a while. 

As you can probably imagine, building out a curriculum that generates authenticity (having clear meaning and value to the learner) seems to be a direct contradiction with how the mind needs to allow in (take the brakes off to) new information.  Where new information can be clear, concise and fact-based, dealing with new information is by its nature unclear and mistake prone.   My most personal experience with this is with skiing in what I describe as “variable” as opposed to consistent snow conditions.  To let the brakes off and allow the skis to run, can mean all kinds of potentially hazardous outcomes.  However I have also come to learn that going slow virtually guarantees that my feet won’t stay beneath me for long.  To have any chance of staying balanced, I either have to keep the brakes fully on (just stand in one place) or I have to take the brakes completely off to allow inertia to take over, with the belief that I can reapply the brakes without tumbling out of control.  So the paradox exists that I need to let go to the world of mistakes in order to gain control.  

The world presents a similar paradox as we admire the professional people who get it right, while effective learner’s need to get it wrong for a while in order to become potential professionals.  So Daniel Willingham would be correct in pointing out that the ‘what ifs’ for adults are different than the ‘what ifs’ for adolescents in one important way.  Adults perceive ‘what if I get this wrong?’ in more consequential terms as they are expected to get it right.  Adolescents also likely want to get it right as well (and as educators we are expected to help them get it right), but they do themselves no favors if they fail to recognize that getting it ‘wrong’ from a mistake-perspective is actually a tool for improvement. 

So how do you square creating a culture where mistakes are seen as necessary and valued as a learning tool with an unambiguous message: perpetually getting it wrong, isn’t right.  You start with challenging long-term memory assumptions about what the learner knows. Until it can be proven that beliefs no longer hold given the circumstances now faced, people will keep going back to that which is familiar, that which is known.  I’ve mentioned this before but it should be re-stated: We go through life thinking we are right until we are wrong.

This is a critical point.  We must tell students how their memory perpetuates a sense of rightness, when in fact, memory in general terms can be a best friend or a worst enemy when it comes to recognition of right and wrong.  Right or wrong is constantly being determined and there are many times when what is wrong is believed to be right. Remember, the concept of recognizing proof implies that enough time has been spent studying something and that a pattern begins to prevail that can then be locked into long-term memory.  It should be clear now that this is substantially different than unlocking the gate to new information, which will impact and may even contradict, the sense of pattern development taking place.  With the gate open to new information, that which turns out to be evident must also be recognizable as relevant (which takes time and replicability to determine). This is what I mean by memory’s schizophrenic ability to be friend or foe.   Of course we want the learner to recognize and correct themselves (if and when necessary) but more importantly, we need to keep the gateway to new information open no matter how tempting it is to reduce the ‘noise’ they should be allowed to face while manipulating information.   We often step in with the answer too soon (this is another way of describing the potential for bias confirmation…the teacher’s bias, not the learner’s).  If we don’t allow the learner a chance to build a solid knowledge background through testing the “What ifs” (long-term memory is prematurely coerced by outside expert knowledge) the learner will lack the ability to make comparisons that will prove out what is noise and what is necessary, and will become dependent on the teacher for an overly prolonged period of time.  There is but one conclusion that can be drawn from all of this:

When building out generative learning one must assume that in the mind of the learner some things (that which is yet to be learned) will be unclear right up to the end, while that which is known must be proven, then re-proven before any attempt can be made at improving.

I realize that any seasoned educator will take one look at that statement and say, “tell me something I didn’t know.”  Well for one thing, if you believe the statement, you and your learners realize that an emphasis on how you practice (proving and proving again) is just as important as your emphasis on hoped for outcomes.  Goal setting will embrace uncertainty about learning limits and certainty around time on task.  As well, along the way there is built in the need to face anxiety-inducing potential failure unless the learner is willing to practice through the inevitable mistakes.  

Getting comfortable with re-proving what you think is already known, may seem counter-productive, but cannot be downplayed.  By going back over and testing that which you ‘know’, you actually make it easier to reconcile the fact that you may have to give up some conceptual knowledge that you believe is true.  The most important implication here is that the learner has to be made aware of how their thinking works, and should be prepared to process information with this awareness in mind.  Regardless of what is being taught, what is to be learned MUST be open-ended, while that which becomes known must be forever tested for assumptions.  

So there have been a lot of words typed to get to the point of this post, which is you need to start down the road to the “What ifs?” with the learner’s perception of “what if this doesn’t work out the way I want it to?” at the top of your list.  For the learner this may happen before they act (long-term memory based- “I struggled with this problem before”) or it may develop as they gather evidence that their thinking (working memory based- “I guess I’ll try this first?”) isn’t achieving the now hoped for result.   Either way, as learners grasp the ability to make and carry out a plan, they can also see if their plan is achieving the targeted outcome.  Success and failure at generating plan/outcome alignment affects functional and structural thinking.  What to do then when the learner decides, “I’ll just leave the brakes on thank you very much, because I don’t like not knowing what happens next.” This seems to be when the generative approach starts to lose its grip.

Think for a moment about the potential structure of a belief.  We will stay in the past with what we know up until something comes along that demonstrates to us that ‘past thinking’ no longer works (Mezirow & Taylor, 2009)This becomes readily apparent when someone or something blocks us from achieving what we are trying to accomplish.    Attention centers on overcoming the obstacle or challenge before us.  At this critical juncture does the thinking move to the idea of mistakes required to overcome, or drift all the way to contemplating failure?  Talking about the acceptance of mistakes on the way to success must be part of the learning conversation. 

This kind of talk is abstract in nature because we don’t know yet what will ultimately be learned even if we have clearly defined the particulars of success.  However, once the results are in, are they seen as an end point, or a new take off point?  What we believe about the results achieved plays a huge role in how our thinking structure will be prepared for, and participates in, the next learning episode.  As educators we should be comfortable prescribing a minimum amount that we feel can be learned within a certain amount of time.  We must also appreciate that the ability to continuously go forward with new information will be greatly influenced by what is now stored in long-term memory, but just as importantly, how that memory is used.

For adolescents we must break the conventional link between mistakes and failure in effective ways.  We want to make sure that it is clear that making mistakes can mean avoiding long-term failure if the mind can tell what kind of mistake is being made.  We want to insure that the mistake of relying on old habits is not confused with a mistake made while testing the unknown.   Testing the unknown starts with testing the known to be sure that it is true.  If the known holds up under testing, great!  If what is known no longer holds to be true, then the mistake comes in not reconciling belief with reality.
This is by definition learning how to become adaptable.  The alternatives are rather depressing.  Placing the learning focus solely on proving external phenomena (through either inquiry or comprehension-based methodologies) avoids the real proving grounds of how your mind approaches a problem.  The focus turns to what you did or did not learn (and the standardized test then bears this out). This stands in stark contrast to recognizing that the learner can make thinking improvements because they understand how memory affects the wonders that lay ahead.  The path of wonderment starts out in a relatively transient state (“is this choice correct or a mistake?”), which leads to more correct choices (iteration).  Further along the hierarchy is a relatively more established state (“as this and this became true, can this be true as well?”).  At some point the question becomes: “because this process is ‘failing’ in some way and I don’t like the result being achieved, can my idea bring about a preferred result?”  This is learning empowerment in the making.  When this type of question is being pondered, both the associative (working memory) and connective (long-term memory) aspects of thinking are engaged.  However, the thinking will never evolve to this point unless learners know and can recognize that they have made the right kind of mistakes while getting closer to being able to effortfully change their surroundings.

I’ve never heard someone who uses an inquiry approach (or even the comprehension approach for that matter) speak to the nature of “What ifs?” in this context.  They tend to see questions as requiring a connection between learner and topic, which is true.  My biggest concern is that this approach has a limited shelf life as curiosity can fade, as competency expectancy isn’t reached.  Competence develops around understanding thinking in ways that support the learner’s ability to recognize what is known as well as the good mistakes along the way that made the knowing possible.  Making the mistakes-failure link a part of the learning conversation should be at the top of any epistemology if you want to move thinking along.  Creating the perfect circumstances where working memory and long-term memory have to co-operate as equals in order for mistakes to be appreciated, and failure to be avoided, is the key.  This is where episodic memory and situated learning comes in.  Where thinking- prove it, proven, improve (defendable recognition) -happens very much matters, and that will be the subject of the next installment.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

It’s All in the (Analyzing) Approach

Today’s entry begins with a clarification.  I may have mislead some readers when I talked about “Co-opted Study” without clearly indicating that the analysis of co-opted argumentation is the type of wisdom inducing exercise that I believe can, and should be examined in schools.  I was not, and never have been of the opinion that, the use of co-opting arguments as a strategy actually works.  In fact I’ve already taken a swipe at educators who combine or mix quantitative and qualitative study results in an earlier post.  The International Journal of Science Education article on Co-opting Science that I linked to in the previous post, does an excellent job of showing how we can be tricked by argumentation strategies that weave science fact (descriptive) and evaluative statements.  The study recognizes that educators must be on their toes when fallacious arguments combining normative and factual statements are being raised by students, and that there is a high likelihood of blurring results due to ‘co-option’ argumentation strategies such as the use of conjunctive argument (the concepts ‘hard snow’ and ‘ball’ are much different than ‘hard snowball’) or the fusion of normative and factual statements  (“disease eradication is great for the world” and “gene therapy can eliminate some disease” becomes “gene therapy is great for the world”).  Of course the way to avoid this, is to study and analyze argumentation through models of argumentation patterns and argumentation theory (normative pragmatics). This study requires the learner to not only argue, but also recognize how the functions of arguments are established.  As I pointed out last post, the platform for wisdom development does not have to be this complicated.  For a person ‘learning’ badminton, the function of keeping your opponent off balance through shot placement may not be within your skill repertoire yet, but one should practice with that conceptual function front of mind. The alternative is prolonged frustration as getting the bird back over the net using the now highly refined overhead shot, never seems to be enough to win the rally.

Now that that is cleared up, I’d like to take on an idea posited by Daniel Willingham (who was mentioned in the last post as well) in his book Why Don’t Students Like School? He believes that we should not expect young learners to be able to think like an expert because the young learner lacks the experience through practice (about ten years) required to ‘be the expert’.  The underlying argument is that even child prodigies are imitators rather than creators; so, a more realistic approach is to focus exclusively on comprehension rather than knowledge creation.  I beg to differ because I believe that young learners are more capable at analyzing than we often give them credit for.

To begin with, I would never argue that a learner can skip the hours of practice required to become an expert.  As stated above, studying ‘co-opting argumentation’ is a comprehension exercise critical to avoiding being misinformed about what is happening when people make declarations.   But once you comprehend what is going on, then what?  Should you just say you are done and ignore the ‘what ifs’ that comprehension now raises?

Let’s examine a really big ‘What if?” question.  I would argue that along any learning comprehension journey, ‘experts-in-the-making’ may not create new knowledge in a general sense, but are very comfortable in using both imitation and their own meaning build-out processes, as a way to build personal knowledge and personal wisdom.  This should not be confused with’ thinking like an expert’, but should be recognized for what it is, an expert’s approach to building deeper knowledge/understanding/wisdom.  Any expert who reflects upon and recognizes what it took to create knowledge, appreciates the need to comprehend.  What they don’t tend to do is get stuck in an approach involving a recursive cycle of comprehending comprehension (unless they are a philosopher or linguist or cognitive psychologist off on a tangent).  Once experts have determined that their comprehension is correct, usually through gathering repeatable evidence (and that’s where ten years of experience comes in handy) they get on to hypothesizing on the ‘What ifs?” in the world.  Those experts-in-the-making that morph into recognized experts also take and make the critical decision To DO Something with their comprehensions...they hypothesize and they ACT.   My sense is that if you asked an expert when the moment was that they started thinking about possibilities, but more importantly, DOING something with possibilities in mind, it wasn’t at 10 years + a day into their comprehension journey.  Steve Jobs left us with an important piece of advice, which was to ‘follow your dreams’.  I am particularly cognizant of the fact that his advice does not state that dreaming alone will get you what you want.  This holds no matter how well you comprehend, repeat, practice or otherwise focus on the dream.   On this point I should elaborate because to me ‘following’ something (in this particular case a dream) must be examined in two ways: deciding if someone is, or is not ‘following’, and then if following is occurring, is there a need to recognize the impact of the ‘degree of following’ (is there such a thing as a little bit dead, and does that matter)?

I begin this elaboration by recognizing that the results of creating meaning for oneself is not the same as the results of creating what would be considered generally accepted “New” knowledge. I never assume that new to me equals new to everyone.  With this given in place, the greater question becomes: From the perspective of someone who discovers (the unknown becomes the known via discovery regardless of degree) are the processing functions for comprehension and new knowledge creation the same; just  discoveries at different points along an experience continuum? 

Our entire belief in the concept of progression is built on this being true.  At some point the act of progressing may lead to discovering something no one knew (instead of just me not knowing) but the way one thinks (“how am I going to figure THIS out?”) is still the same.  So, if it is established that something is being followed and discoveries are happening, then how might these processing functions change (if at all) at different places on an experience continuum, and why might this be the case?  According to Dr. Willingham, this is due to the differences in the elaborative nature of the functions.  Essentially, the structure of the function is more elaborate due to experience and therefore can create knowledge where none existed before.  To me this is like saying that because your Ferrari can go 200 mph and my horse drawn buggy can go as fast my horse, I shouldn’t test what my top speed could be because it will never be 200 mph. What this doesn’t speak to is the impact or degree that using the available function has on future events.  If the goal is to learn how to manage a vehicle moving 200 mph, maybe my buggy won’t do.  But can a race in my buggy be used as a take off point for other races I might want to entertain in the future?  I believe so.

In his book, Dr. Willingham does make a near irrefutable point when he identifies the real problem, which is when educators don’t recognize the differences between experts and novice learners (that as educators we can somehow ‘shortcut’ the learning cycle and tell buggy racers that they are Ferrari drivers in the making).  I would argue that the shortcut approach of a teacher telling a student “Be the expert” (which is difficult if not impossible), needs to be replaced with “Be AN expert”.  The implications in differentiating these approaches should not be under appreciated (there is more here than a definite/indefinite article exchange). 

If the expectation is to do exactly as the expert does, of course there will be frustration on the part of the learner.  If however, the expectation is to do some things that change what we know in ‘wisdom gap’ narrowing ways (using the available function), the learner is moving nearer to expertise, with all the benefits that accrue.  The ‘Be the expert’ approach fails because the learner cannot be two places at once (both novice and expert) while the ‘Be an expert’ approach focuses on the relationship or distance between levels of knowledge and the ability to understand both similarities and differences.  My sense is that Dr. Willingham would be hard pressed to defend the idea that the concept of relationship function, which is familiar to everyone from about 5 years of age on, couldn’t be the first abstraction fully grasped if taught properly.  I think the minds behind Facebook would back me up on this.

Of course this puts the concept of who is ‘the expert’ in a different context.   The definition of ‘an expert’ now includes a focus on the ability to overcome cognitive capacity issues regardless of what point you are at on the cognitive ability continuum.   Dr. Willingham does an excellent job of making clear what the learning novice’s discrete limitation issues are.  Unfortunately in doing so, he concludes that the dynamics (the constant change) occurring over the 10 years of ‘becoming’ an expert are so drastically different from overcoming on a day-to-day basis, that one should not be compared with the other.  Note I used the word “compared” (past tense).  Of course the two abilities (novice ability and expert ability) to overcome are very different (both quantitatively and qualitatively) but the ability to recognize a change in ability (very large to relatively small) is exactly the same, especially when looking into the future (and not just the past). 

Regardless of the differences, one thing we can all (novice to expert) appreciate is that the road to overcoming begins with recognizing results.  What may be less obvious, but equally grasp-able, is recognizing the approach to be taken to achieve the results.  My sense is that focusing on effective approach is not a lost cause for novices.  It begins with the teacher saying “explain to me/show me what you did”, what we might see as Prove it first.   It continues with “now how does your approach compare with xyz approach?” or what we might describe as who else has proven this?  It ends with “gather the evidence that indicates how each approach works, then tell me which approach you would use under circumstance A, B, and C.”  This is the point where, should the motivation be present, the learner can contemplate making improvements.  

An interesting side note to this is that in my experience using this method, I find that comparing approaches taken amongst novices is far less threatening than comparing approaches taken by experts.  I believe the reason for this is because you are comparing learning novice belief-systems that are still open to, and accepting of change.

So although I would be hard pressed to debate with Dr. Willingham on how the mind works, I’m also unsure how to square my teaching experiences and learning results with the more modest outcomes that this author believes are “more realistic”.   To me, the evidence is that a Prove it – What’s proven – Can you improve? approach has shown again and again to work very well for young learners of all ability levels.  To do any of these 3 things requires that the learner distil out functionality within a context.  I fully recognize that the learner doesn’t perform these exercises with the sophistication of an expert, but I still see novice learners smiling as all the comprehension effort has as a reward pay off of looking at ‘What if?’ possibilities.  The next post is going to look at some tangible ways of building up to the ‘What ifs?’ that keep learners motivated.  As you can probably guess, the approach you take is very important :)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Knowledge Transfer and Wisdom Transfer

I concluded my last post with a statement that I believe is both provocative and true.  The reason I believe that education does not equal invention is because of the issue of information transference for, or not for, profit (which I won’t drag you through again, as that is so last week’s post).  So where does this leave us?  I believe this leaves us where we are today, which is in a world where some information (usually knowledge-based) is freely shared.  I also believe that much of the information that is shared freely is of a nature that will not fundamentally shake up the way educational infrastructure works.  We know we need knowledge, and we don’t tend to always reach further.

My reasons for thinking this are based on the qualitative and quantitative aspects of critical information.  I think of this in terms of someone who reviews information and makes critical decisions on what is good and what is not so good.  They analyze both the qualitative and the quantitative, but will put a heavier emphasis on one or the other depending on who is using the results of the review.   Shared information becomes public information and in this day and age, everyone has an opinion about what the information means.   This added acknowledgement of the qualitative has moved us towards a type of “movie critic’s forum” way of deciding what works and what doesn’t in learning. 

Picking up on the movie theme, the parallels between movie directors and school principals, producers and school boards, actors and teachers and all the other comparable complex phenomena shouldn’t be too hard to visualize as similar.  In both worlds if enough people are saying nice things about the story you brought to the screen or the school year you just orchestrated, it doesn’t really matter if there is a better movie or learning result possible.  It is in this context that the idea of critics’ forums are springing up around education, becoming more prevalent and main stream. 

Let’s remind ourselves how this works in the movie critics’ domain.  Beyond good story/bad story, cool cinematography effects, solid acting etc., the conversation of what defines a better movie possibility (aside from the reviewer’s summary of story’s parts) isn’t the professional movie critic’s prime concern.  Their concern is what they just saw.  The cleanliness of the theatre doesn’t usually come up in a review no matter how spotless the locale.  “I dropped some popcorn on the floor during one particularly intense scene and felt secure that the sign that read ‘Operating J Theatre Clean’ meant the 5 second rule was in effect” just doesn’t come up in most movie reviews.  Questions like the potential full adoption of 3-D becoming the standard once the technology removes the need for glasses, seems to be left to the paying public to decide.  Along the same lines, immersiveness defined as the audience’s ability to interact with the plot, not in ways that option out alternative endings, but that provides the viewer the opportunity to play ‘What if?” isn’t something critics are lobbying for.   A movie critic might have a personal opinion on the value of this, but as an audience member, my willingness to go to a particular movie with this optionality is not something that necessarily needs to be judged by a movie critic in order for me to determine quality; I only concern myself about the option if it is available or not. 

So what do education critics look at?  All sorts of things obviously, but it is the debate about what information should be transferred in learning that will be today’s focus.  Let’s extend the metaphor a little further.   In this case, knowledge transfer sounds like: “I think this is a good movie because”…  which is then compared with wisdom transfer: “what were the chances prior to release that Avatar would make more than it cost, or, why don’t recently produced silent movies need 3-D effects?”  (It is worthy to note that I can read the movie critic’s advice for free about why they hated the movie, but the answer to the wisdom questions just posed will have a monetary price attached because the answers aren’t known for certain until sometime in the future.  Oh the power of uncertainty!  In the examples above, the sums of money wagered on what movie will work and what won’t based on box office sales, can turn into staggering monetary gains or losses.)

What to make of this then when taking a critical look at education?  On the knowledge transfer front I cannot predict with certainty how much knowledge a learner will retain, only the amount of knowledge I made explicit and available.  So I can quantify the number of problems I made available to solve, and can even count up the number of interventions committed to remediate learning difficulties.  If my goal is to have the student recognize the arithmetic patterns across a series of algebraic problems so they can answer a set of never before seen questions on a test, I’m at the mercy of the learner’s ability to ‘recognize’ the similarities and ‘discard’ the false positives.   The assumption here is, the more exposure to a wider range of problems the higher the likelihood that this will occur.  Of course if this doesn’t turn out to be true, I’ll have a qualitative reason at the ready (Oh mercy me, but I did my job and they still didn't get it!)

Let’s compare this with what we can predict about wisdom.  Imparting  wisdom is even more nebulous in that neither inputs nor outputs can be quantified in isolation and still retain the title of Wise.  Through this effort we may discover what is true, but only under controlled circumstances.  In order to exhibit wisdom, the expectation is that emotion and opinion will defer to universal principles (Note: these are not laws…these are best guesses as we control less and less).  These principles are grounded in the repetitive nature of history, and history, as we know it, is never simple. We can’t guarantee that history will repeat itself, but we can’t ignore history either.  There is wisdom all around us, but to the uninitiated a tempting decision to ignore wisdom comes from the belief that one can defy history.

To me there is a great irony in all of this, and that is we believe that in transferring knowledge we are giving our learning ‘customers’ ALL the intelligence (in information form) they need to make better decisions (That they become wise).  This to me is an incredible assumption…that because you have the information, that you’ll know what to do with it.  I know I’m not the first person to point this out, but I’m also dumbstruck by the number of people who are convinced that this connection between ‘have’ and ‘do’ will become automatic for learners (never mind the bigger issue of ‘have …and do the correct thing’).  

Perhaps it is time to examine the Have/Do connection more closely.  Let us  assume just for a moment that cognitive scientists like Daniel Willingham have it right when they say that for most people the have/do function in our brain is memory-based and that as a species we would rather do things from memory than think our way through something.  Based on this, wisdom is never going to be developed if the “do” side of this relationship draws only upon that which we already “have.”   The reason for this should be obvious, in that, wisdom recognizes and draws upon what we know and what we don’t yet know -but may be able to connect to through a shared, rather than individual, past.  The reality is that knowledge transfer is easier to impart, while wisdom transfer requires co-opted study.  Complicated?  Very much so.  Vital?  This may be the thing that can save our schools.

Regardless of complexity of task, through multiple student observations I have come to recognize that to move a learner from someone who is knowledgeable to someone who understands, requires the cognitive exercise of determining which knowledge variables must be present in order to avoid misinterpretation or information loss.  I realize there are other factors at play when the mind is making meaning, but determining if both of these conditions have been met, seems to me to be one of the most powerful ‘doing’ exercises one can perform to move along the path to understanding, and eventually wisdom.   Notice two things here:

1.     The exercise builds off what we know, but requires both analytical and creative discovery efforts in order to succeed;
2.     That avoidance and loss sit prominently in this determination, which lends itself nicely to the belief that the brain is a survival tool.

If you opened the hyperlink to the co-opting science study you see high complexity (fact-value distinction) academics at its best, but this type of learning scenario based on the requirement of ‘doing’ wisdom can be constructed on much simpler platforms. One of my fellow bloggers, Dr. David Eubanks, does an amazingly thorough job of explaining this kind of survivability game

For me the continuum of knowledge - understanding - wisdom must be fully articulated if, as educators, we are going to fulfill the obligation of learning transfer with any degree of success.   I want the option of accessing wisdom in secondary school.  Dealing with difficulty and trouble should not be the exclusive domain of those beyond school.  Raising the outcomes stakes to substantial by making the use of wisdom a pre-requisite, gets people’s attention and shows them that the connection between learning and life is not transitory. 

I realize that everyone will have an opinion about the merits of this kind of risk exposure, but perhaps if the efforts to improve education aren’t focused solely on the ‘storyline of knowledge’, our understanding of how to achieve a better educational possibility might get advanced.  While many in the world of education are opining about the need for better knowledge transfer, I think it is time for that, and wisdom transfer as well.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Looking at some big stuff other than basketball

Upon returning from the first basketball practice of the season yesterday, I opened up my email to find a reply to a question/request that I sent out to Tony Wagner last week following my last blog post.  In that post I concluded with a question, and thought it might be interesting if Dr. Wagner had an opinion he might like to share.  Just to refresh, here’s the question again:

If society were to adopt new educational approaches that recognize best practice, or maybe even disruptive practice, what considerations in terms of the legacy systems already developed, must we address?

The reply from Dr. Wagner wasn't what I'd hoped for but was completely understandable.  It follows:

Thanks for the kind words, Dean.  No time for this right now.  Besides, I answer this question in the new last chapter for the paperback edition of the book.  You are welcome to quote or reference.
Tony Wagner, Ed.D.
Innovation Education Fellow
Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard

So the good part was that Tony Wagner was kind enough to extend a professional courtesy in a respectful way, and the less hoped for part was that I was now going to have to go back to the book and create a synopses answer from the final chapter and the afterword of his book.  After reading both chapter and verse again, here is what I thought stood out. 

Under the heading, 
Creating Accountability For What Matters Most; 
the case of the 2008 Virginia Beach Public Schools system wide ‘strategic planning’ change effort is highlighted.  In it, Jim Merrill (Superintendent VBPS) is quoted:

“It’s the hardest work I’ve undertaken in my career” Jim told me recently.  “We’re trying to effect change at scale, and we have to ‘play on two playing fields’ at once.  We’re still being judged by the criteria for ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’ and state accountability standards, while we are holding ourselves to a much higher standard.  We have to succeed at both.  It’s hard but it is the right work to be doing.”[i]

So my answer formulation process began with a comment from a superintendent who recognizes that a complete departure from legacy infrastructure is nigh on impossible.  Because ultimately some form of integration must be present in a change effort, taking on the challenge of adopting new (dare we say disruptive) approaches, increases the work not by a double (4+4), but by a factor of two (4x4).  . 

A direct statement on page 263 in Dr. Wagner's book conclusion section elaborates on this:

Finally, it should be obvious that there is no way to teach the competencies of critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, and assessing and analyzing information, and so on without teaching academic content.  Subject-content material is what you think and write about, and problem solving is initially best understood and practiced as a part of the study of math, science, and social studies.  But in today’s world, academic content must be the means by which we teach core competencies – rather than through merely memorizing (and often forgetting) academic content for its own sake.  Students can always look up when the Battle of Gettysburg took place, or who General Sherman was, but they can’t just Google the causes of the Civil War and make sense of what comes up on the screen.  To understand such an issue, you have to know how to think critically, and you need a broader conceptual understanding of American history, economics, and more.  As we’ve seen, these skills and this kind of knowledge are rarely taught or tested in high schools today.[ii]

This recognition by Dr. Wagner appears to confirm the fact that any legacy learning system(s) must be addressed, and in all likelihood cannot be abandoned, if for the simple reason that: learning has many components, and each component has different facets that can't be ignored.  But the absolutes around what we address (what stays, what goes) at each level is still up for debate. 

The next step was to bring this information into the context in which I work, which led me to an initial examination of the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) website.   The AISI initiative (ongoing for around 10 years) can best be described as the place where ‘new approaches’ to learning are given a blessing by the local provincial government.  It is also the place where government sanctioned improvement efforts will be shared.  To anyone who has worked in scientific or experimental design situations, you know that the works performed by private industry or scientific research-park organizations are usually kept secret as the results are considered proprietary information.  These trade secrets are often monetized through either competitive advantage use (lower cost, higher quality processes and products as a result of the work) or sale (for example $1.5 billion raised from the disposal of Nortel patents after the company declared bankruptcy). 

In either case, the nature of the work performed in the R&D effort is of a sophisticated enough nature that there is a sense that the development effort will generate proprietary gains that are greater than the R&D costs. As mentioned in the last post (Some Reasons for Un-change), for-profit enterprises use R&D as a tool for increased profits.  Ineffective R&D that leads to losses rather than profits won't survive.   In education, where profiting isn't the goal we quickly find out that educational R&D is to be shared. Now I realize that the argument ‘for the greater good’ is going to be rained down upon me as the reason for this (and by the way, I’m all for the greater good).  Let's start with who pays for this research in Alberta.  It is the government that pays, so they get to make the rules around how the results get used. One of the results of this greater good utility through government support is when shared information results in fewer mistakes being made, and in education that makes a lot of sense.  There is also a fear that people will withhold discoveries if we suddenly put a price on what we've learned through our research.  Despite these solid arguments, I am going to argue that there are some fundamental flaws that manifest themselves when an incentive system is in place that fails to recognize the true personal value (ownership rights) of unlocking learning innovation.  This is especially the case when private industry still exists as an accepted part of our societal infrastructure.  I’m also going to argue that if someone can generate a learning innovation that is of a great enough value that it has the potential to be monetized, it is probably going to have to be of a type far more similar to that work performed to create innovation in the for-profit domain.   

As the next step down the answer path, here is what AISI says about itself:

AISI is a bold approach to supporting the improvement of student learning by encouraging teachers, parents, and the community to work collaboratively to introduce innovative and creative initiatives based upon local needs and circumstances.

By going to the following link you can find out more, while this fact sheet spells out things like goals, measures and data analysis.  In many respects this type of funding initiative on the part of the Alberta Government has generated some solid work that can be said to have improved instructional design and pedagogical outcomes.  What can also be said is that virtually none of the 2000 sponsored projects have come up with answers on how to solve the ‘factoring of effort’ problem that Jim Merrill and Tony Wagner allude to.  Additionally, these projects fail to address another important area that I outline next.

Within the AISI results repository are two documents, one, a University of Alberta study by Jim Parsons and Kelly Harding -Research Reflections About When Schools Work Well: 21 Specific Activities for Improving Schools, and the other, Colloquium on Large Scale Improvement Implications for AISI 2008.  Both begin the process of meta-analyzing some of the project data gathered so far.  Unfortunately neither document can be said to contain the secret formula that solves some of the common dilemmas of integration.  Digging a little deeper, you can go and look at any specific educational improvement project as project summary results.   The section “What did not work” speaks to the challenges faced by a multitude of educational improvement projects in Alberta.  Here are two frequently cited reasons (synopsized) for integration failure:

·      Compromise Challenge – where oscillating between old and new practice rather than adopting a discrete third way, eventually ends up compromising the hoped for systemic improvements or gains that were originally envisioned
·      Initiative fatigue/capacity limitations – Resources (human and capital) are used up before real change to the byproduct of the integration effort can be seen as self sustaining

These, and other reasons appear time and again when education reformers take on the large task of paradigm/shape shifting.  From the Colloquium document just mentioned, you can get a taste for how the educational establishment accepts the likelihood for failure baked into adopting new approaches when they state:

The (AISI) research draws on the traditions of school effectiveness and school improvement. School effectiveness is more directed to finding out what works in education and why. School improvement is practice and policy oriented and intended to change education in the desired direction. In the orientation on outcomes, input, processes, and context in education, both approaches have much in common. Today the two traditions are usually merged (Creemers, 2002, p. 343). Combining the two perspectives has led to using the school improvement vehicle and the school effectiveness knowledge base to enlarge our understanding of how schools operate and possibilities for improving them. By combining elements of both traditions, mixed methods rather than either quantitative or qualitative ones are used for description and explanation (Hopkins, 2001, p. 57). [iii]

This statement can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but I would argue that 'mixed methods' are used as more than descriptors.  From my perspective while working with this process for 7 of the last 10 years, the typical research and development process, which is iterative in nature, has been modified in school improvement efforts to constantly (due to the combining function) bring into question/doubt that which has supposedly been proven to be effective or ineffective.  Where conventional R&D explicitly states both quantitatively and qualitatively what has been observed, educators use something labeled “mixed methods” as a way of explaining things.  I believe that this approach hides the facts.  Even accepting that understanding is enlarged or possibilities have increased, the way educators use the evidence as an end rather than a means to an end, is somewhat unsettling.  Further evidence of this belief that evidence is an end rather than a means to an end landed in my inbox the other day when the provincial government asked me to provide feedback to a questionnaire titled: Welcome to the Preliminary Ideas for the Development of Guiding Principles for Curriculum Design-Online Engagement Opportunity.  Participants were asked to provide feedback to a series of statements using a four-point scale (agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, disagree).  Two statement examples follow:

            Curriculum evolves in response to emerging student and societal needs.
This idea is important to guide future curriculum development.

            Curriculum enables student-centred learning.
This idea is important to guide future curriculum development.

These “guiding” statements ask for an opinion on whether courses that are taught, should include something that can be identified as student-centred learning and should evolve with current contexts.  Has all the research (2000 research projects in Alberta alone) not been able to say empirically what the answers to these questions are?  Is it any wonder then, that when parents ponder a decision that has to be made between legacy ways of teaching and learning, and better ways of teaching and learning, those advocating for the latter are accused of living in a world of opinion rather than fact?  It would appear that when we go all the way back to the original question,

If society were to adopt new educational approaches that recognize best practice, or maybe even disruptive practice, what considerations in terms of the legacy systems already developed, must we address?

…our (Society’s) biggest challenge is that most of the current research work done in education has not definitively established what ‘Best Practice’ actually is.  Add to this what Jim Merrill mentioned when attempting to integrate his two worlds, and the magnitude of what needs to be overcome (starting with how we restructure education improvement initiatives) begins to parallel the world of very large numbers.  The consideration of what we address (what stays, what goes) floats in a world of sometimes-effective current processes and sunk costs in the work invested so far, with all of the implications that are attendant to that reality. 

Unless you posses the resources of a Bill Gates, anyone ambitious enough to take on this kind of challenge will most likely want to see some sort of personal benefit that is commensurate with the effort that will be required.  Additionally, the resources that will be needed to research the outcomes desired will need to be more aligned to the practices of private industry.  At this point the question society will want answered is, whether the cost of such an effort will generate the 'equivalent' of greater profits.   

Someone reading this might jump to the conclusion that I am advocating for the removal of educators from the professional learning process, but in fact quite the opposite is true.  What I am saying does mean  that professional learning should not be confused with real R&D.   Real R&D does generate a best practice model that is not up for argument.  And when real R&D is applied to probable outcomes (which is what education deals with most of the time) it won’t make a case for certainty, but it can make a case for what is most likely to happen should best practice be followed.  

Does this mean that education ≠ invention?  At least as things currently stand, that appears to be a true statement.

[i] (Wagner, 2008)
[ii] (Wagner, 2008)
[iii] (McEwen & Milard, 2008)

Friday, 18 November 2011

From adopter to blogger in 3 short months

Welcome to School of Life.  This first stab at a digital dialogue will hopefully grow into a space and place where people can come together to share ideas and information about how life and school need to be brought together in ways that eliminate distance, barriers, obstacles, obstructions, paranoia, and just about any other excuse you can manufacture to perpetuate Old School thinking.  In this place, Old School thinking is when convention wins out over the search for best practice.  'Thinking managers' are welcome to chime in, but hopefully most of the conversation will revolve around practices that appear to be changing our traditional view of what schools are and how they are 'supposed to work'.   If you believe you have discovered a shape shifting learning methodology, this is the place to talk about it.

The approach taken here will be one of looking at how school can, and should, be better integrated with the world around us.  There has been plenty of ink spilled on the shortcomings and inefficiencies of current general education models so we won't spend a great deal of time adding to the word stock already corralled (I guess I'm saying I'll be working hard at not letting this space degenerate into a 'misery loves company' forum). Rather, School of Life will pose many questions around a simple belief that there is a need for school, and there is a need for relevancy, so setting the conditions where everything in and beyond school once again makes sense, will be the primary goal.

Before going too much further, an About Me moment is probably appropriate.  My name is Dean, I'm an educator, consultant, advocate, coach and now nascent blogger who cares deeply about how education works.  In 25 years I've had many opportunities to try and make a difference in the lives of learners, and believe that for the most part I have done well.  I don't claim to have gathered all of the answers, but I do have a well developed sense of what learning is.  I am also of the opinion that in order for people in school today to realize any value from their efforts, there will be required some near galactic changes in how school prepares students for the future they face.  The starting or launch point is removing the idea that school should remain (literally and figuratively) within the physical confines of the school.  In a world where more and more of the connections we make are via devices, this concept of linking ideas in the physical sense will be a recurring theme.  Before anyone assumes by that statement that I'm a technology hater, or one of those people who believe that learning is first and foremost a sensory experience, stop!  I compute like everyone else, go mobile like everyone else, get out and play (occasionally) like everyone else.  In a sense I feel like I'm in the role of every learner here with one exception...I place a heavy value on experience, significant experience to be exact, and how critical significance to the learner must be front of mind at all times.

Over the coming weeks I hope to start to expand on the idea that school can once again make sense because what is happening is important.  If you are a learner, a teacher, a parent, a mentor, an interested bystander, or like me you have a little time on your hands and you'd like to join the conversation...please do!  I make no promises that every post will shake the foundations of education (this one certainly didn't) but I can say that beyond introductions there will be information shared that will be influential, substantial, and hopefully helpful.


Some Reasons for Un-change

A quick glance at the search results for the term “School of Life” pulled out a couple of interesting queries including a 2005 made for TV movie starring Ryan Reynolds and an organization in London, England known as The School of Life, where,

The School has a passionate belief in making learning relevant – and so runs courses in the important questions of everyday life. Whereas most colleges and universities chop up learning into abstract categories (‘agrarian history’ ‘the 18th century English novel’), The School of Life titles its courses according to things we all tend to care about: careers, relationships, politics, travels, families.

Needless to say, this was enlightening news, not in the sense that the term “School of Life” isn’t in some respects verging on cliché, but more so a reinforcement that the notion of school and life being connected in truly authentic ways has moved both movie makers and alternative post secondary school founders into action that addresses a perceived deficit (there's others out there like me :).

So what then of this notion that what school is, what purpose it serves, and maybe most importantly, what school generates in terms of learning outcomes, might be ready for a disruptive change.  Two recent books that take a thorough look at school reform, 21st Century Skills by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel and The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner set out to not only provide a rationale for systemic changes to education, but back their arguments up with instructional strategies and alternative educational delivery systems that empirically demonstrate results that are measurably better than the traditional learning models typically employed in most high schools.  So, despite the best efforts on the part of some school reformers, why is there a lag in mass adoption of new learning practices that work?

Let's begin to look at this question by drawing a parallel on a more global scale.  The same question could be raised around the topic of the development of ‘alternative energy’.  First and foremost, there is an established infrastructure that supports a world that runs on carbon chains just as in the educational world there is infrastructure that runs on semantic knowledge.  To develop both was a costly and time-consuming effort, and now there are many people within the general population who have a vested, economically dependent interest in our continued use of said energy and informational dissemination sources. 

In the energy realm, despite rising environmental resistance, infrastructure build out continues today.  Look no further than the current pipeline debate or the carbon sequestering technology debates for evidence that many people are in no hurry to let go of legacy systems.  There may be some who are looking for ways to reduce harmful environmental impacts, but it appears that not everyone is ready to abandon 'what has worked’ for the last century.

Ironically, the window of 100 years of protracted hydrocarbon use is about the same amount of time that the educational system as we know it today has had to establish an infrastructure.  Even with the recent introduction of alternatives like Charter Schools (which to me is like saying “let’s switch from oil dependency to natural gas”) the actual number of learning choices available is constrained by a political system that looks first to evolve the legacy infrastructure before entertaining the notion of adopting ‘disruptive’ methodologies. 

On the topic of the availability of new educational methods, another quick internet scan turns up a variety of interesting content ranging from history of school choice in the U.S. (see links below) to tables that argue for why choice in Ontario Public Schools is actually a myth.   Without broaching the inevitable politics that surrounds the positions taken by these authors, my question around ‘choice of learning methodology’ is based on a much larger event horizon.  To do this I need to once again return to the Energy analogy.

What I’m trying to establish here is a contrast between the ability to choose from 100’s of new car models (which would be the argument of 'choice availability' for those with the vested interests mentioned earlier) and the option of being able to drive something that doesn’t burn gas (or coal based electricity) when I go to work.  And what really upsets me, is that while many in the energy debate point fingers at one another about the hypocrisy of driving to an air quality protest in a gas powered vehicle, the tactic of clogging the dialogue with self-limitation arguments (“see…you aren’t any different than the rest of us”) would become baseless if real choices of equal utility and cost that were less harmful to the environment were available.  I want to make perfectly clear at this point that I’m NOT channeling Michael Moore, as this to me is less about the conspiratorial, and more about a general commitment to R&D.  In the meantime, the rhetoric flies, and little else is done to stem the current drift to complete climate degradation.

So the adoption issue begins at the macro level with two high barriers in place:

  • 1.     Resistance to change massive legacy systems for a variety of reasons, most of them economic based
  • 2.     Self-limiting, circular dialogue that obfuscates the issue of domain agency retention by those with vested interests in legacy systems

Change agents face both of these barriers across the professional spectrum, but Wagner (mentioned above) does a fine job of articulating a third barrier, which is nested within the culture of the education profession.

The culture of the education profession, in my view, is influenced by the laws of both nature and nurture: Nature: Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the sort of person who was attracted to teaching as a profession was a kind of craftsman-someone who enjoyed honing a skill and greatly preferred working alone.  This was also a person who valued security and continuity above challenge and change.  Nurture: The ways in which educators have been trained traditionally, and in which their work is organized in schools, reinforce all of these tendencies. [1]

This observation about the cultural tendencies of educators may not be unique when compared to other professions, but what really supports and encourages the somewhat static aspects of the education culture is the fact that government established education systems are not-for-profit.  That fact need not be an indictment.  I can say however that this leads to an inability to adopt many incentivization approaches commonly practiced by for-profit organizations.  At the very least, K-12 education lacks the tools of change available to for-profit organizations.  Government controlled means political first, instead of profit first, by nature.  Add to that, the fact that teaching somebody something is, for the most part, different than using that same person as a human resource to generate profit.  Each effort comes with its own idiosyncrasies, and those idiosyncrasies are quite different.

Even “independent” educators have little incentive to generate disruptive learning methodologies when society in general has come to recognize and accept education as a cost center as opposed to a profit center.  This draws me to a second irony when I think about the price of a liter of gas going up across the board at every service station in town…nobody likes it, but it is accepted as a cost of getting around.   Besides, the very idea of schools “competing” with businesses for profits in the marketplace would have just about everyone lined up to shoot the generator of the idea (thankfully child labor’s days have passed, at least in North America).

So to begin to try to answer the question “So why the lag in mass adoption?” we have to address the fact that there are many well established anchors that are both legitimate and illegitimate, and none are going away any time soon.  As a society we have grown familiar with our infrastructures, and to most, that is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, when faced with the specter of disruptiveness, threat levels become so elevated in some, that defending outdated methodologies becomes the hyper intensive effort of choice.  To this day I’m impressed with how many parents, teachers and other interested bystanders believe that the pedagogical approaches used 20-50 years ago make complete sense today.  It is tough to argue with them when we are still using safer, more fuel efficient cars to choke our atmosphere.

Just the same, I believe it is time to ask the question: If society were to adopt a new educational approach that at least recognizes best practice, or maybe even disruptive practice, what considerations in terms of the legacy systems already developed must we address?  In the coming posts I’ll attempt to start to answer that question.  Today’s message should provide some hints, especially the part about the potential for educational research and development.  Imagine if you will, what the educational landscape might look like if educational developments could be categorized as Scientific Research and Experimental Development creditable work?  Could a granting or cost reimbursement system be established around such a concept?  Stay tuned. In the meantime, here are those links on school choice that I promised earlier.

Works Cited

Wagner, T. (2008). The Gobal Achievement Gap. New York, NY: Basic Books.