Response to “Is education the new currency?”

Here are my thoughts on a specific article “Gent, Edd. “Is education the new currency?.” Bbc.com. 10 Feb. 2020. <https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200210-is-education-the-new-currency> Accessed Web. 11 Feb. 2020. “

This is a thought provoking article. I appreciate the efforts made to support our learners future successes but I believe we must do so judiciously. The human brain is designed and ready for so much potential. We can choose a variety of amazing things in life that will lead us to powerful life experiences (outside of traditional education). Each of these experiences teach us and shape us in our life pathway. I have always felt that choosing your career path at age 18 is frightening and a bit unfair. It is no surprise that we have many different jobs in our lifetime… but is that a bad thing? Think of all of the jobs you have had and how each informs some aspect of another. Now imagine being in one career your entire life as designed by a powerful AI’s algorithm, remember with great power come great responsibility.

Personalized learning is the future… How do I know this? Because personalized learning is our past… the individual, 1:1, master:apprentice model allowed for responsive instructional intervention in the moment. Personalized learning is the recipe for powerful learning.  Further, micro-credentialing is increasingly becoming an acceptable alternative to even a college education. Micro-credentialing is a form of certification indicating demonstrated competency/mastery in a specific skill or set of skills (2). This can be described as a more personalized approach to learning.

But this article attempts to cast an exciting vision for personalized guidance, describing a potentially Skynet-esk solution. Personalized guidance is a definite possibility in the future and is not necessarily a bad idea, but it is going to take a lot of time and money to get right. I am a huge fan of leveraging emergent technologies to achieve more in depth learning around content and experience based objectives. I also appreciate employing these tools for increased creativity and productivity. But to leverage and employ infers the technologies are tools to assist tasks, not to provide guidance to direct our life course.

If we are uncertain of even the types of jobs that our students will have in the future, how can we place quantifiable value on current education opportunities? For this concept to be successful, the creators must operate from the premise that the world is constantly with new jobs, new instructional opportunities, and new resources continually informing the algorithm which quantifies the value of each and provides… no small task.

Tracking achievement in university modules/courses, training courses, and/or career choices, are vastly different that exploring “how people learn from kindergarten to retirement.” 

Tracking how people learn is not as simple as tracking choices people make. The same arguments about how many factors impact a learner’s success on standardized testing  – eating breakfast, good night sleep, maturity, access to resources, etc… can be applied to a learner’s measured achievements during their whole life. Human performance technologists explore the concept of “success” for people. One of these researchers, Dr. Joe Harless, developed the “Performance Success Model”(3) which explains the importance of Motivation, Environment, Skills, and Knowledge as contributing factors to success… are these accounted for in the algorithm?  Not to mention factors like the diverse measurement tactics employed by a variety of instructors, meaning we are not comparing apples to apples for each learner across the country (let alone the world)

I’m skeptical of the safety and anonymity of this public database and the implications of a breach. I mean, what if the database was hacked and the world knew about all of my detentions in middle school? If examined (quantifiably) the number of disciplinary-detentions I had would have painted a terrible picture of for my life’s trajectory. But the qualification of these would have to include a significant amount of context which would reveal I was a bit too social and nothing more (apparently talking out of turn is frowned upon in schools).

But I digress… The onus on schools and organizations to keep and provide meaningful and updated records is a big ask. Using this data to map potential routes through education and employment is a nice idea but I remember taking a “test” like this as an freshman in college it directed me to being a florist or something. Of course, this product would be of higher caliber that my freshman test, but I worry about those interpreting the “potential routes” employing them as the only options available… what I mean is when it comes to hard choices, sometimes we just want to be told what to do, because it is easier that navigating ourselves. We would all like Godric Gryffindor’s Sorting Hat (4) to make life decisions for us because it’s easier. But easier does not mean better, not does easier mean right.

Further, I am concerned that an AI-powered interface, that would use this data to provide advice, may not fully understand the human experience as it relates to learning. Failure is part of our process. Our failures shape us and sometimes drive us to do more, in the same space, for example: 

  • I failed a quarter of 5th grade ELA – now I have written two books.
  • I failed Intro to Anthropology as a freshman in college – I have a PhD in Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation a field of study heavily influenced by cultural anthropology. I am not proud of my failures, but I recognize their value in pushing me forward in life.

All that being said, I appreciate what Adams pointed out: “That there is some predictability, but it’s not a defined path.” The intention may be for this tool to help us navigate, but when it is used to confirm/guide our path… that’s when it can be dangerous. T.S. Eliot is often quoted as saying “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”(5)

On a side note: I am unclear about how this would work “If the idea manages to scale to national or even international proportions, they’ve created models in which this money could be used to create a “central learning reserve” that automatically pays the learners and teachers creating the data.” Would this in fact perpetuate a cycle of haves and have-nots? Those that have access to tech can work overtime and make more money while those without will stay behind?

In conclusion, the article states “Many companies are essentially paying people to learn whether through apprenticeships, funding MBAs or providing on the job training” this is a completely different story, these applications outside of K-12. I have no doubt the creators of this product have worked to understand how the human brain works and how, developmentally, the measurement structures suggested in this article may be more appropriate much later in life. Personalized learning strategies and experiences have a great deal of potential. However, for now, personalized career pathways, as they relate to K12, are best guided by caring individuals who choose to support the whole learner by preparing them in their life choices.

Sources:

1. Gent, Edd. “Is education the new currency?.” Bbc.com. 10 Feb. 2020. <https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200210-is-education-the-new-currency> Accessed Web. 11 Feb. 2020. 

2. NEA. “Micro-credential Guidance.” NEA. n.d. <http://www.nea.org//home/microcredentials.html> Accessed Web. 11 Feb. 2020.

3. Harless, J.H. (1973). An analysis of front-end analysis. Improving Human Performance: A Research Quarterly, 4, 229-244. More about Dr. Joe Harless can be found in this short career biography http://exemplaryper- formance.com/dr-joe-harless-honored-by-csg-board/ Accessed 2.20.2019 

4. “Discover your Hogwarts house on Pottermore | Wizarding World.” Wizardingworld.com. 1 Jan 2018.. 2020. <https://www.wizardingworld.com/news/discover-your-hogwarts-house-on-pottermore> Accessed Web. 11 Feb. 

5. Mcalpine, Fraser. “Happy Birthday, T.S. Eliot: 20 of His Most Life-Affirming Quotes | BBC America.” BBC America. 2015. <http://www.bbcamerica.com/shows//blog/2014/09/happy-birthday-t-s-eliot-20-quotes> Accessed Web. 11 Feb. 2020.

Leave a Reply