A few disparate ideas and experiences funneling into this post…

Recently I heard Robert Garmston speak about the need to adapt in times of significant change. He wasn’t speaking specifically of schools but about any organization, and he made an interesting distinction between technical change (which is what most schools have been undertaking) and real, adaptive change. Adaptive change, he said means:

  • The implementation of almost all new practices as opposed to simply extending past practices
  • New organizational ways of working
  • Challenging previously held values
  • Requires gaining new knowledge and skills

And much of that work, he said, has to be taken on not by the “wise folks” at the top but by everyone, inquiring, re-thinking, re-envisioning within “professional communities learning” (nice twist on the phrase.)

I thought of all of that while reading “Rocks New Economy: Making Money When CDs Don’t Sell” which talks about how the music industry is adapting to the changes brought about by these new technologies. Here is the money quote that I think captures much of the dilemma surrounding all of this:

Cliff Burnstein, co-owner of the management firm QPrime — which represents Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as smaller acts like Silversun Pickups — says the old major-label model is fading fast. “That’s definitely over,” he says, noting that Silversun Pickups, on the indie label Dangerbird, have licensed several songs for TV and do well on the road. “Silversun Pickups make a decent living,” he says, but adds that he wonders whether most musicians can put the time and energy into negotiating the changing landscape — or if they even should. “It’s hard enough to write a decent song,” Burnstein says. “That’s still the talent I’m looking for.”

That article was referenced by Paul Krugman of all people in today’s Times in a thought-provoking column titled Bits, Bands and Books about how business models and, specifically, books are trying to figure out how to adapt. The most interesting part to me is the way he covers the building debate over free content and intellectual property.

Now, the strategy of giving intellectual property away so that people will buy your paraphernalia won’t work equally well for everything. To take the obvious, painful example: news organizations, very much including this one, have spent years trying to turn large online readership into an adequately paying proposition, with limited success. But they’ll have to find a way. Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.

Which brought home a recent visit I made to a storied, venerated, old private New England academy that is successful by any traditional measure despite a very different approach to learning, one that has resisted (and is still resisting) technology as a learning tool (and even as a teaching tool). They are seeing the change coming in their students now, the ways in which they interact outside of class, the videos they are producing, the debates over intellectual property. The connections the technologies facilitate are seeping into their classrooms, and they’re not quite sure what to do about it. Some interesting conversations have started.

So all of that has me reflecting once again on how we think about changing this education model we’re always talking about, about what needs to change, and about how it all plays out. Not just in terms of how we do our own education business, but in how we prepare our kids to live in a world where many of the models for making a living ain’t what they used to be. I still think these changes “start at home” so to speak, with our own personal understanding of them.

And, to rephrase a bit from above, I still wonder whether most educators can (or are willing) to put the time and energy into negotiating the changing landscape, though I am absolutely convinced they must.

(Photo Be the Change by danny.hammontree.)