Limitations of the Education Industry

Link to: CogDogBlog » Blog Archive » The Dissonance of “Blogs in Education”

There’s lots to chew on in this post from the CogDogBlog. Seems like the whole crew at the Northern Voices conference got their juices flowing and there are more provocative ideas floating around than I can absorb. I think Alan’s discomfort with the term “Blogs in Education” hits on a fundamental problem that will constantly plague us as tools for individualized learning proliferate. The key distinction to me is between “education” and “learning”.

Back when I was doing career counseling, I spent a lot of time trying to help students understand the difference between a job and an industry. Jobs are things that you do, like writing process, creating images, or counting beans; industries are the environments that you do those jobs in. (That’s the simplified version; the longer version requires the use of props like paper plates, but I digress.)

Education in the US is an industry, much like advertising, investment banking or luggage manufacturing, though bigger, and, some would say, with more noble goals. As an industry we have certain expectations that differentiate us from other industries. The higher education industry is defined–for better or worse–by the fact that we offer courses, evaluate what happens in those courses, and grant credit for those courses that other industries judge as being valuable. As an industry, we see most everything–including blogs and other social software–through the lense of courses or the support organizations that allow us to offer courses. (The research enterprise is an industry with its own rules of engagement.)

Learning is a job or an activity that can take place in multiple environments. Adult educators, led by Allen Tough, have tried to help the education industry understand that learning is centered with the individual–not with the industry, but with little success. Social software tools are empowering learners to be at the center of their own learning universe to an extent we could only imagine a few years ago. There’s going to be an amazing amount of dissonance and discomfort within the higher education industry as we try to break free of our conception of the course as the primary organizational tool of what should be our primary organizational activity (job)–learning by indviduals.

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