How Could New Ideas Change Education

Kenny Miller from MTV The other day, I went to MTV Networks to hang out with Kenny Miller and I dragged along my friend Faith Legendre from Webex/Cisco. I had no idea what Kenny would share with me. A visit with him is serendipitous as Kenny is MTVN’s “cool hunter” guy. He fixes weird things. He finds new models. So, what was on Kenny’s mind?


Kenny, or rather MTV, has partnered up with some folks to work on Essentially, the site hopes to work on the problem of the school dropout rate, and secondarily, the college admissions rate. The stats that Kenny gave me were staggering (and as I immediately forget numbers, they were something like 30% of all kids who enter high school don’t finish or some similar – you can correct me). They made my head fog up as I thought about what it’d mean to try and solve those problems.

Evidently, our education problems cost us something like 350 Billion US Dollars a year in lost revenue (or similar – again, I don’t remember such things well). That’s crazy. So essentially, just fixing a few bits of education, just improving a few parts, would change the way this country works.

Faith, it turns out, has all kinds of knowledge about the education system and she and Kenny started riffing on all the cool projects. She told me about and TeacherTube, and how Cisco is working on 21st Century Schools iniatives. Kenny and Faith told me about Big Picture Schools and Green Dot SChools and Marc Ecko’s Sweat Equity enterprises, and several other great projects.

The question remains:

How Could New Ideas Change Education?

In a way, I’m already noodling with this. With Whitney Hoffman and Christopher S. Penn, I started PodCamp as a way to teach about media making with alternative methods. This is the unconference model, but it’s started me down a path to learn more about the DNA of Disruption, and what I could do by applying alternative education models to other situations.

I’m not interested in becoming a teacher. In fact, I’m not much interested in the existing systems. I’ll let others figure out how to fix those from within. However, I am more than interested about what else can be done outside of the boxes. I’m curious what we could do to change the laws, change the rules, make new games, and create success from cradle to grave.

Think about this: my 3-year-old boy knows more about navigating the web than most school computer programs. My 7-year-old daughter’s fascination with the Titanic would give her a great springboard for learning engineering, forensics, and many other sciences, though the original assignment was simply to read a few books for the sake of reading. Neither of my kids are being taught leadership (directly), nor are they being taught entrepreneurial studies (directly). The old system, make factory workers, is still firmly in place, and we’re trying to patch that. I don’t think that’s how I want to roll.

I was talking with Dr. Lynn Dorman tonight on twitter, and as she nears 70, she’s facing the same fate that lots of people fall into: younger generations don’t understand how to learn from the body of work of their successors, even if their only learning is in which systems have failed in the past. How can we marry up all the great resources of people who know something great to those of us who could stand to learn more?

I’m also interested in educational models for business workers. We’re in a society where HR is less and less about career development and more and more about benefits management. Companies are no longer the stewards of your development and career. How can I help those of us who lived in the cubicle farms, and what can I do to share that information in a way that will empower others?

I’ve no idea where I will go with this in the larger context. I just wanted to put the thoughts out there. I’m curious as to what you’re thinking about it.

How can we build new learning models? How can we equip our youth and/or our students and/or our business professionals? How do we share what we’ve learned with these new tools? How do we equip our kids to do something with all we’ve learned from social media?

What’s your take on all these kinds of projects? If Kenny Miller’s working on it, I know it’s important. I’m also wondering what else would could do with our combined knowledge. We’re the smartest people around supposedly, right? How can we help?

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