A Message To Post-secondary Ed: Get into K12 Early

One of the conversations we’re having in preparation for the upcoming Apple Distinguished Educators institute in Austin, TX, is around resistance to change, especially in post-secondary education (PSE). For what it’s worth, I’ve seen this effect everywhere: the higher up you go in education the harder it is to introduce new technology…really meaning new practices.

I think our case in my school has been typical–we started with a 1:1 laptop program in senior school and made the assumption the iPad would also launch there. But unlike a laptop, which arguably is a legacy of the industrial model of education, the iPad is transformative. So it meets more resistance where the curriculum load is heavier (more lockstep) and the pressure for grades is higher as these translate into a reluctance to experiment.

Now, we have to be careful not to pass judgement here and to save any critique of curriculum and assessment for another time. I don’t think we can point fingers at teachers either. Most teachers I know would like to move forward. Statistically, the same is true–only a small percentage are real sceptics. (see the curve of adoption, below) But they’re working against much larger structural problems–economic and delivery structures. (See my short post on the 3 Legs of Educational Reform.)

One soft strategy we’re using is to develop the iPad program in our junior and middle schools and to let the new practices the device enables filter upwards. Think of it as professional development for students.

I wonder if PSE might do the same. The traditional point of contact between K12 and PSE is the K12 senior school but I wonder in this regard if PSE might find it profitable to start working with the junior and middle school years so that by the time students reach university and college, they are driving the change you want to see.

In my experience the curve of adoption is about four or five years wide–conversations I was having at tech conferences (I’m assuming everyone there is an “innovator/early adopter” and that that the rate of adopting among conservatives is the same, though it might well be slower) are now appearing in mainstream channels. That would suggest grade 8 or 9 as a n entry point for PSE, but I think it’d be worth getting in as early as possible.

I think PSE would find an open door, don’t you. 

(Selfishly, I’d love to see a lot more collaboration between PSE and K12. There’s so much research to be done.)

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