Why education should be more like Apple

“Apple wasn’t content to create a phone that just had additional features. It completely rethought the solution–from the ground up. Apples engineers put themselves in the user’s place and refused to be constrained by the past. They didn’t start with the technology. They started with the dream and then went in search of technology. This is a completely different way of doing business.” Michael Hyatt, Platform (pg. 4)

I have two elementary-school aged children (3rd and 5th grade) and I want their school to be more like Apple.

I’ve posted before about how curriculum would be very different it we put ourselves in the place of someone that hasn’t known the content for a long enough time that we have forgotten what’s like to not know it.  But this desire goes beyond even that.

These ideas and beliefs have been simmering in my mind throughout my entire career in education, but are coming more and more sharply into focus as I experience it through the eyes of a parent.  As a teacher I saw students for a year (sometimes two if they took another class with me, but typically a year).  And I prided myself on my ability to build a rapport with my students (and it was an often-cited things when students, parents and colleagues described my teaching), even that relationship I built with them was no longitudinal enough to see where they started and how “school” had transformed them to where they were at age 16-18 when I encountered them.

With my own children, however, I’ve seen them constantly (sometimes a little too constantly…cabin-fever syndrome anyone?) and I’m seeing exactly the effect “school” is having on them.

“School” is eroding their autonomy, their creativity, their outside-the-box thinking and their intrinsic motivation for learning.  It’s not that they have poor teachers – on the contrary I think they’ve had very good teachers.  It’s the larger system as a whole (read my thoughts on how the system prevents teachers from changing and improving their classrooms here).

We need to stop thinking about how we can “change” education and the system of schooling and start thinking about how we can throw out our paradigms altogether and start over.  How can we design a system from the ground up to accomplish what we say we want in the system.  So like Apple, we don’t need to “add features” to the cell phone – we need to rethink what a cell phone is, can and should be.

Here are some features of “School 2.0” that I think should be including in the “start from scratch and build it to match our goals” process:

  • Education is not about seat time.  We should not measure the levels of education by how many minutes a students has attended class but by what they learn, understand and produce.  That happens more quickly for some and less quickly for others.
  • Students should be active participants in decisions that guide their education.  What do children want to learn about?  What problems would they like to solve?  What new product or business would they like to start?  The teacher’s job is then to determine what content and skills are needed for those problems or tasks and guide students through them.
  • Education is not about learning trivia facts.  We need to develop creative, problem-solving, collaborative, interdisciplinary thinkers.  Their experiences in the classroom should model what we want them to do when they’re done in the classroom.

I know that the likelihood of the system changing paradigms like Apple (at least in the time it will take before my own children graduate) is next to none – the bureaucratic machine and entrenchment of “tradition” is far to large.  So what can I do to help reach these goals within the current framework?  Well when I was in the classroom I made every attempt to make my classroom incorporate these things – I ran a student-paced mastery learning classroom (various blog posts about that are here) that utilized real-world application and need-to-know content introduction chemistry curriculum.  Now I write, present and share to help other teachers incorporate aspects to help their visions come alive in their own classrooms.

What is important to you for “School 2.0”?  What aspects can you incorporate into your classrooms now?

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.”  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the User of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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