I love how Seth Godin uses his blog to succinctly articulate ideas with a straight forward, common sense approach. Seth, is an author and public speaker and I find a number of his posts have ramifications for education – something I thought when reading his recent post Alienating the 2%.
I find we often spend hours thinking about, worrying about, and strategizing over, the group Seth refers to as the two percent:
If you have fans or followers or customers, no matter what you do, you’ll annoy or disappoint two percent of them. And you’ll probably hear a lot more from the unhappy 2% than from the delighted 98.
I am not giving away any trade secrets when I suggest that as we propose innovations, we often have the faces of particular students, educators or parents in mind – wondering how they will respond, knowing that they often relish their role in Seth’s 2%.
Here are just three of the issues in education (as well as in the West Vancouver context) that seem to fall into the two percent challenge:
More Feedback, Less Marks – We have had almost universal appreciation for how teachers and schools are embracing the use of feedback through formative assessment, and in turn, results are improving. We have heard the concern that this approach to assessment has the greatest benefit for weaker students, thus shrinking the gap on the spectrum between those at the top and those at the bottom. This is great – except if you are at the top – the old way was working great for you and this new way, while it still works well for you, has just increased your competition for university.
Wireless Technology – On one level, it is a trust-in-government issue (can we really trust Health Canada’s statements on safety), and there is also some pushback around whether these “gadgets” are really necessary. We can lose sight on the conversation about what we are trying to do – provide access to information and collaboration through web-based, secured learning environments; provide assisting technologies to enable students with special needs to work with their classmates; connect with classrooms in other communities, provinces and countries, as well as to utilize digital texts, and extending learning beyond the traditional bell-to-bell of school.
Embrace First Nations Education – West Vancouver has very few First Nations’ students. As of the September count, we had about 30 students who self-declared out of our 7,000 student population. We are making a concerted effort to work with our local Squamish Nation, to better support our First Nations’ students, and also improve the understanding of all of our students about the Squamish Nation. For some, this is an add-on, or an initiative that is only about a small number of students – most of us see it very differently.
Back to Seth:
It seems as though there are only two ways to deal with this: Stop innovating, just stagnate. Or go ahead and delight the vast majority.
Sure, you can try to minimize the cost of change, and you might even get the number to 1%. But if you try to delight everyone, all the time, you’ll just make yourself crazy. Or become boring.
I am committed to not being boring, or having West Vancouver become stagnate. Whether it is continuing to embrace formative assessment, supporting wireless technology to transform learning, or more involvement with our local First Nations, for starters, we need to keep the 98% in the foreground.
The easiest thing to do in education is nothing. There is something sadly reassuring about our children’s education looking like our K-12 education experience – I heard once that the best advice to a vice-principal who wanted to become principal was to make sure nothing changed because nobody would complain, and in-turn, everyone would say you are doing a good job.
We have to be better than that.