CCK08: Assignment 3

Who are the real voices of resistance?

Ordinarily, we consider anti-establishment perspectives the voices of resistance. Who, however, are the voices that are resisting change most vehemently? They are largely the instititutions whose stakeholders desire that the mechanisms of accountability, order and control persist over time. The most powerful agent of social engineering is that of education.

I believe that there are systemically dysfunctional attributes in the education system, largely because those same dysfunctional attributes are core values that inform how we as individuals lead our lives. Speaking in general terms, we are molded at an early age in a world where desirable behaviours are praised, and undesirable behaviours are punished. Risk is discouraged, and making mistakes is frowned upon. We learn to feel good about ourselves on the basis of external valuations, and take this as the only de facto means by which self-satisfaction can to be realized. The tradition is reinforced in schools through coercion in the form of praise, stickers, useless dollar store trinkets, sweets, free time, field trips, movies and marks (Kohn, 1999).

Many, many students who are successful in school end up wishing to become teachers, often because their own teachers have been an inspiration to them. Some teachers were formerly bad apples in school, and somewhere along the line they had a teacher who allowed them to believe in themselves where they otherwise would not have. For the most part, however, I would speculate that most teachers understood how to play the educational game, and were justly rewarded in turn. In teacher education programs, the cycle of transmission teaching and the stranglehold of a marks-driven economy continue to perpetuate the cycle.  We must learn how to model a different kind of education for our children, which includes parents assuming greater responsibility and involvement in the education of their children, in collaboration withteachers.

Checks and balances that ensure a high level of accountability in institutions do not lend themselves to encouraging experimental teacher training programs. The risk of these programs is necessarily higher, since any such program would require tremendous unlearning on the part of students, and especially teachers! Self-discipline would replace extrinsic motivation; inquiry learning would replace required texts. Reading selections would no longer be dictated by the canon. Learning would occur by way of personal interests, in much the same way that individuals learn via—the Internet! Open courses and open software would be an option for educators and learners alike. Learners would seek out mentors in the areas within which their interests and passions lie, toward the end of engaging in specialized instruction, either individually or in small groups, rather than via introductory classes with hundreds of students and multiple choice exams to assess student “progress.”

Thankfully, mass consumption of new technologies in the marketplace is necessitating the introduction of these applications in educational settings. However, the fear from within educational institutions seems to be that if the means to adopt these technologies to an educational setting is not discovered, the relevance of education is placed in question.

In the abstract to Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers, Siemens (2008) asks:

How do we design learning when learners may adopt multiple paths and approaches to content and curriculum? How can we achieve centralized learning aims in decentralized environments? (3)

In response, I would like to ask, Why must we continue to design learning? and Why must centralized learning aims continue to be achieved in decentralized environments? To ask these two questions is not to preclude that there are not good answers to these questions. In all likelihood, however, the answers will vary depending on the specific context of the training in question.

To the extent that private enterprise encourages innovation in the workplace, it can be a driving force behind change and innovation. The bureaucratic quagmire of at least some educational institutions can be avoided by visionary venture capitalists who are able to support extensive research and development initiatives with a minimum of red tape and funding restrictions. Consider the following:

As an interesting motivation technique (usually called Innovation Time Off), all Google engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time (one day per week) on projects that interest them. Some of Google’s newer services, such as Gmail, Google News, Orkut, and AdSense originated from these independent endeavors (Wikipedia, 2008).

Depth of learning arises from providing learners with the time and resources to engage with material extensively. That means abandoning forty or seventy minute periods, and creating the space for learners at an early age to daydream without interruption. It means giving kids the tools to learn about themselves through false starts and unexpected diversions. And it means trusting that we do not have all the answers.


“Google: Innovation time off” Wikipedia. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2008 at:

Kohn, A (1999). Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Siemens, G. (2008a). Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing Roles for Educators and Designers. University of Georgia IT Forum. PDF document. Available from



5 Responses to “CCK08: Assignment 3”

  1. jennymackness Says:

    Hi Adrian

    I have enjoyed your post – lots in here that I can relate to. I agree with your comment:

    That means abandoning forty or seventy minute periods, and creating the space for learners at an early age to daydream without interruption.

    In the UK (not sure which country you are from), this is much more of a possibility with younger children, since for the most part children up until the age of 11 have one teacher for a year. If this teacher is sufficiently imaginative and creative, it is possible to work round the curriculum constraints to build in space for the type of learning you are talking about. In secondary schools (post 11), I don’t think this is possible at all in the current education system.

    But how did we ourselves survive this education system and still come out reasonably OK and with a life-long interest in learning? It can’t all have been bad. Does the new necessarily mean throwing out the old? I know you didn’t say this. I’m just thinking aloud here.

    Thanks Adrian


  2. jennymackness Says:

    Hi Adrian

    This is my second attempt to post this. The first vanished into the ether. Maybe it will still appear at some stage. I was interested in your comment:

    That means abandoning forty or seventy minute periods, and creating the space for learners at an early age to daydream without interruption.

    This would make such a big difference, but the logistics of it would be quite a nightmare for schools as they are organised today and then there is the question of how we would keep tabs on student progress and whether students would get the curriculum they need. Needs analysis would become even more important than it is today and differentiation in the classrom would become even more of a nightmare for teachers than it is now.

    No easy answers!


  3. Keith Lyons Says:


    I agree with your analysis, argument and alternatives! Very few schools have ever overcome the demands of industrial economies to mind children during working hours.

    I find it mystifying that decision makers believe that doing more of the same will magically transform schooling into education.

    Dystopia could become utopia with autonomy at the school and classroom level.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. Adrian Hill Says:

    Hi Jenny,

    Here is the way I see it: in terms of “student progress”, we are no longer talking about evaluating student achievement against standards of measurement toward a particular end. If a student were to meet specific learning outcomes, then formal assessment would be conducted to the extent that there would be an identification that the outcomes in question had been met, and a description of how they were met.

    We know that in our present educational system, not all student meet all outcomes equally.

    You suggest, “it would be quite a nightmare for schools as they are organised today and then there is the question of how we would keep tabs on student progress and whether students would get the curriculum they need.” Is a standardized test sufficient to indicate whether a student “gets” a curriculum? I am being dramatic here, I know; I am aware that there are other means of formal assessment. However, tests do tend to be the prevailing means of assessing student progress and attributing course marks.

    But why do students “need” that curriculum? At the graduating level, if this is only a question of receiving proper accreditation, there are mechanisms in many (if not most) post-secondary institutions to assess whether students can pass equivalency tests. If they cannot, then within the area in which more competence is required, the student could choose to take a more formal and traditional course.

    You are right that needs assessments would be even more important than they are today. You are also right that differentiation would become the norm for educators. But if a kid in grade four is functioning at a grade seven level in math, this could allow for that student to take grade seven math and not waste his/her time.

    Yes, the logistics of this would be quite a nightmare for schools as they are organised today. Realistically, what I am suggesting is not an overhaul of our entire system of schooling, but an expansion of alternatives to regular programs for those students and educators who would like to explore other options.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  5. CCK08: Week 11 End of Term Feeling? « Clyde Street Says:

    […] his post “And I the CCK08 student, may become the teacher much faster than I thought.” Adrian posted his assignment too and concluded that “Depth of learning arises from providing […]

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