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#Edtech and #Edreform: It’s About Communities, Not Bureaucrats

We are social animals. You don’t need another blog post telling you that.

But what you might need is a little information about how #edreform is becoming more social. It is younger, tech savvy, and, ironically, it is not entirely concerned with ed reform.

I found this out when I stepped off the plane in Seattle after a five hour flight from New York and met Gregg Alpert, who is the new Developer Evangelist at Pearson’s Future Technologies Group.

Gregg had seen me check-in on Foursquare, which I had broadcast on Twitter. He sent me a Tweet asking if I wanted to meet up. We did.

This is what education is becoming. If there is no “market” for education entrepreneurs, there is a community and because it is a community, people feel comfortable meeting people who would normally be perfect strangers.

We met at the gate for his San Francisco flight, shook hands, and then sat down while I ate a burger and drank some water before my connecting flight.

Themes discussed: what is the education tech market; what are community managers like me and him doing with education and technology communities; learning how to code at Codeacademy; mutual friends; the new hubs in education technology (NYC is definitely getting bigger); my history and my theory that the baby-boomers who were trying to jump start the education reform bus are probably not going to be the ones who create the change, though they might have sparked the conversation.

The last point is important. Because a certain generation my age and younger works on the web, their conversation is actually more than just talk and relationships with politicians. It’s proactive, active talk. Talking forms communities, exposes new technologies, creates hackathons, and unites people who would simply be out of reach if they worked or lived in the system the baby boomers think they are trying to change.

Innovators come from outside of the system.

The current ed reform movement, pre-X-Generation and pre-Y-Generation, is still inside the system. Baby Boomers are just aligning themselves for new power and control, mimicking the system that they came from.

Their “change” is not change. It’s the spark of change, certainly. There are great rhetoricians here. There are people who have their hands on the levers of budgetary power, political control and relationships.


The real change is going to happen on platforms and it will be “consumer-driven.” Those consumers are students, communities, and teachers. They are not, in most cases, people who have branded themselves as education reform Leaders.

Why? Because it is on platforms that learning and community organization will begin, and it is on platforms, and through platforms that people come together.

It’s not about finding new leaders in the same system and changing it. It’s about activating the platforms and the communities that are already coming together outside of the system.

UdemySkillshare; Khan Academy (to name a few): they are more than just disruption makers in the evolving education vertical; they are more than just platforms that enable people to learn and to teach. They are really the platforms on which mini-societies will be built. They will be micro-communities and much more.

Since platforms mix and mash up people from different communities offline, these new education platforms will completely flip on their heads not only the district model for K12 and all the trappings of what we have come to believe is the public education system.

It will, for example, be the place where a primary student from Ghana can learn the same information as the kid from Wisconsin. And they won’t do it at the same time, though they might have the same teachers.

When that happens, leadership is less about filling the places of power and then flipping a switch. It’s really more about organic utilization of reputation, getting along with your peers and enabling learning through sharing and collaborative consumption, a la the Airbnb model, on platforms that students and people use every day to get their own version of learning enabled.

In this case, peers are not political leaders and political leaders mean less to education, since the intimacy and sharing enabled by platforms is so open, and so frictionless, there’s no need for the levers of power to push through authority.

It’s your classroom, because it’s modeled after your identity and your friends, and your way of learning.

Imagine a 34,500 person classroom, and the conversation andt he communication that goes on there, asynchronously. This may be taking a big leap in logic, but it is entirely possible that education will become a lot like the search for influencers on the web.

When you are managing learning of thousands of students, you need to find students in the legions that can manage their own communities. Kids do this already, on Facebook, on other platforms. Students do this outside of school, just like Gregg and I did this.

We see each other. We meet. We learn from each other.

Credibility, certification is not packaged as control and like a system. It’s more about who you know and what you know, and how you treat other people.

In that kind of model — where student leaders help craft the learning environment — district control doesn’t look so feasible.  A standardized system doesn’t seem to make sense.

Education looks more democratic. It looks like a conversation, and it looks like getting things done.

Say goodbye to helping leadership get smart on the district level, and say hello to getting community started. The platforms are already active. It’s already happening.

The students are ready to learn.