'The Clay Layer'

The glacial pace of change in Education is a theme constantly discussed by colleagues I admire but mostly I hear the opposite, that change is too relentless, too challenging.

Systems seem to have some inbuilt, organic way of slowing change – preserving the status quo – and even when the paradigm shift is acknowledged, key players seem unable to generate the enthusiasm or traction to make it happen.

President Barack Obama’s success, fueled by new media tools like Twitter, the desire for change and more participation in politics by ordinary folks, has met with the expected challenges in Washington:

Government 2.0 has reached its midlife crisis. Despite some leadership from influential individuals on using social software in government, there is still in many cases a disconnect between authorities issuing directives and ground troops carrying them out. In some corridors of Washington, this impervious middle section of government is jokingly referred to as “the clay layer,” the layer through which no light shall pass. Resistant to change and adhering strictly to doctrine even when nonsensical, people in the clay layer can halt progress. Despite their intentions and being in a strategic position, they often stop the progress being called for. SOURCE: Government 2.0: The Mid-life Crisis

I encourage you to read the entire article and also Web-Savvy Obama Team Hits Unexpected Bumps as this experiment in more open government, if successful, provides authority for others endeavouring to make changes in a range of institutions around the world.

Back to Education 2.0. There’s plenty of reading about some of our challenges in NSW with Web 2.0 innovation available in the blogosphere. The filtering in schools worldwide is increasingly making students and teachers despair. The comments at Teachers attack DET filters are a numerous sample of the opinions many hold on this unnecessarily contentious issue. If filtering is about ‘Child Protection’ then a growing body of empirical evidence suggests we are being overly cautious and, as a result, stifling innovation.

For example, the Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States does not support the assertions made in the ZDNet article about ‘Child Protection’.

“A Harvard-based task force set up in the wake of an agreement by MySpace and state Attorneys General has released its report on the safety of children who venture online. It has concluded that the dangers are often overhyped, and that many of them arise from other adolescents.” SOURCE

We have our own ‘clay layer’ and we need some ‘new thinking’ and savvy people not only leading the innovation but making it work. The challenges are numerous and it is easy to be critical but without criticism we are unlikely to adapt at the pace needed. To quote again from the article about President Obama’s challenges:

“You have a choice: you can either create your own future, or you can become the victim of a future that someone else creates for you. By seizing the transformation opportunities, you are seizing the opportunity to create your own future.”

Just had a feed from Seth Godin’s blog which felt relevant:

When people read great ideas online, I often wonder what happens to them after that… Nodding is fun to watch, but largely ineffective.

How will Education 2.0 advocates create the future for children and their communities?

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7 Comments

  1. Thought-provoking post, Darcy. I like the neat “Clay” connection.
    Progress can be made if challenges are viewed as opportunities for a PLN to continue learning and developing.
    Glacial pace & rapid change, perhaps referenced in the same conversation by the same person is an increasingly common situation. Frustration all round!
    We (Here comes Everybody) all have ideas and solutions, it’s understanding, accepting and managing the diversity of those ideas that provides the greatest challenges/opportunities.

  2. Troy:

    I see some links to the development of a National Curriculum in regards to our ‘clay layers’ (plural, making it even harder to innovate a tired system made up of sub systems)…
    Everyday of education we face this: you can either create your own future, or you can become the victim of a future that someone else creates for you.

    Nodding, ineffective?? What about dancing about with a bunch of mates as you reform your band from high school??

  3. Dean groom:

    Technology to me is unsustainable in artefact. It rarely takes leaps until we start to use it differently. Schools are largely attritional between memory and forgetfullness. Classrooms are not ‘safe fail’ in the way that serious game based learning is. Teachers often focus on creating ‘fail safe’ learning frameworks. I am increasingly less convinced that technology or filters are the issue. The deficit thinking of leaders, who have much social capital to lose, is as you say, where change stalls. Empowering peers to be more relevant and to take more risks, with or without the Internet is important. Pedagogy and learning frameworks need renewal. Curriculum needs challenge, where most ‘leaders’ are focused on complience, claiming to be too busy. Leadership is the most detrimental filter in my view. There really is no reason not to change.

  4. Troy:

    Dean! I want to agree. The ideal of a ‘fail safe’ classroom is so common. Yet, we even to fail to admit that it US, making the system, reinforcing the system through complience (national standards based assessment for example)…the only thing to change is the power structure of schools. Sadly I don’t want to close my door and just do what I do, I want others to see, become involved, fail, try again.

  5. darcymoore:

    Thanks Elaine, Troy and Dean for your comments.

    I wondered if anyone would noye the ‘Clay’ above the ‘clay layer’, Elaine – well done ;O)

    Troy, I look forward to your band poster advertising the tour.

    Dean, I also believe what you say to be true. Leadership is critical and it aint about the tools it is about the attitude, frameworks and pedagogy.

    ‘The clay layer’ is a phrase that may ‘stick’ when we are discussing this very vexed question of educational leadership and change management.

    Let the light shine.

  6. kellimcgraw:

    Elaine: “We (Here comes Everybody) all have ideas and solutions, it’s understanding, accepting and managing the diversity of those ideas that provides the greatest challenges/opportunities.”

    That may be true within a PLE where contributors are open to change. Unfortunately teachers are finding that opportunities are quickly shut down within a school bureaucracy where political and public perception are a higher priority than innovation.

  7. David Chapman:

    “How will Education 2.0 advocates create the future for children and their communities?”

    Great question – Clearly the desire for accountability has resulted in misguided results such as NAPLAN etc. I think that until leaders see the value in change, and are able to produce meaningful information that demonstrates improved outcomes, we are largely doomed to struggle.

    It is lucky some are happy to continue the journey.

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