Fred Wilson is a venture capitalist and mastermind behind Union Square Ventures. Ever since I heard about his brilliant Hacking Education gathering in New York a few days ago, I have not been able to dry the grin from my face.
Picture here: A room full of creative entrepreneurs, teachers and miscellaneous thinkers sitting around a big table for six hours talking about how to change education. Disturbing innovation E-learning. Online games and cooperation. Think of the school and what it means, how it looks. You have my personal hero, Sir Ken Robinson gives the welcome address and for the rest of the time it is only open for discussion.
Now add a live Twitter stream on a big screen, enabling those who are present to add their thoughts without having to require floor time (can you imagine this in a classroom for children who will not raise their minds happens but has something very important to ask or add?) There is a steady flow of tweets from those in the room and from those who follow these tweets on Twitter.
I wish I could have been there, but frankly, Im proud to just know that it happened, I really think we get a critical mass in terms of new thinking about education, and were about to hit the tip when The attitude of the old school to education is considered not only outdated but actually harmful to most students. Bold!
And yet, as happy as Im about the shift and the discussions between edurati, nothing is missing.
Its the parents. For the purpose of hacking education, the biggest obstacles will not be technology or teachers or government. The biggest obstacle to overcoming will be the parents - or more precisely - their fear of the future of their children if they choose to do things differently.
I get it. Im the parent of four newly launched daughters (ages 18, 19, 21 and 22, including three college credits, one leader and one who finishes his masters May in May) and I know how hard it is to drop the standard approach to education. Even when I know in my mind that this bold new option is better than the old one, I want some evidence. Its hard to feel convinced if you can not watch and see amazing examples of success among those who have taken a different path.
What I think many editors do not recognize is how scary it is for parents to risk feeling like, yes, bad parents. You can show us the best technical tools on the planet, presenting ourselves to the brightest tutors just a click away, yet we still worry: What happens if my student can not attend a decent college because I decided to get all the innovative and encouraged her to do homeschooling or skip SAT or get a GED or study online? What then? Although we know education is scandalous and that our children can learn more easily and quickly online or simply read books on their own we still feel we need to tie our children to a college degree or else we have failed.
And then we do what everybody else is doing: we hang the keystroke symbol over our childrens shoulders and say, There are not enough spots in the colleges you like, and there is not enough money to help you get your ass better , miss / missy, and study for these tests or you will never come in and get help.
Nothing will change unless parents can let go of their own fear and ego (I refer to this two-pillar as fego) and it is imperative that we appeal to the hearts and not just the mom and dads future.
Too often, academics and entrepreneurs come with amazing ideas that they think will revolutionize the education without considering those who really run the education pool in the United States - the parents. They are those who pay for in-depth schools and international upper secondary schools and SAT supervisors and AP tests and college applications and over and over again.
Well, let me just tell you that parents are sick and tired of paying the bill for an increasingly long list of must-have extras. They do not want to be promoted that unless what you sell helps them SAVE MONEY AND / OR TIME while giving their children a better education. They do not want additions. They want alternatives. And above all, they must be convinced that what you offer will really work for their children and not just the lines of these investors and inventors.
Theyre just there. They are sitting on the edge. All you need to do now is to show them that the options are not only more accessible but completely beneficial.
Oh, and one thing: theyre waiting for you to go first.
Educational hackers, disturbing innovators and edurati: Go publicly about how you go away from the traditional track with your own children. Until they see whats happening - and see the RESULTS - comes the parents