Step One of Education Designed for Learning: Reorientation

LeiLani Cauthen, Publisher

Everyone in education is familiar with “Orientation Night” for parents and students.  There may even be new teacher orientation professional development.  What is orientation, really, and what secrets does it hold for the shifting landscape of education?  Well, if you can find out where you are not, then you can be oriented.  Or reoriented, as is usually a more correct way to state it since any orientation is taking you someplace else than where you have been.  It’s a journey of discovering new mental and physical spaces.  You already know where you are, it’s the juxtaposition against the alternate viewpoint of others and new spaces that matters in orientation.  

This leads us to the matter of the orientation of education. 

Where are we, circa 2018?

The world outside of education is at an incredible change rate, or “rev-rate” as in turn-revolutions like a wheel.  It is faster than mankind has ever before experienced.  For example, Blockbuster was a $6 Billion enterprise in 2004 and in 2010 went bankrupt, disrupted by Netflix and other options in just a couple of years.  Theatres also took major hits.  Amazon’s relentless incursion into retail has affected tens of thousands of retail store closings in a single decade.  From a peak in the year 2000 at over $60 Billion, newspaper advertising revenues are now down under $10 Billion, dying in contrast to the growing dominance of Google and Facebook. Cable television recording and on-demand service means you never miss anything and are completely free to program your own time.  Yellow Pages are a thing of the past and crowd-sourced reviews of handymen, plumbers, restaurants, and services of all kinds are nearly universal.  Uber and AirBnB have capitalized heretofore private property at scales that have made big dents in the previous industries of taxis and hotels.  The value proposition winning is convenience and experience.  Taken together, these two things give better quality of life.  Notice, too, that all of the big shifts are driven by open capitalism, and all of them are centralizing otherwise disparate fields by leveraging the internet.

These are big clues if educators pay attention. 

The underlying trends are digital, mobile, on-demand, centralized and an untethering of structure.  It’s this last one that is the most critical for education institutions to come to grips with.  Public school leaders find it nearly impossible to think of themselves purely as a digital concept, a brand in the ether of the internet, preferring to hold onto the idea that they are buildings and staff with tacked-on technology.  They are places, not placeless like Netflix, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and major up-and-comers in their own education field like ABCMouse and many other direct-to-consumer retailers-of-learning.  As such they are not thinking of a reorientation to match value propositions of convenience and quality experience.  In fact, the polar opposites of inconvenience and poor digital user experience are a normal part of the construct – and poor experience not because of any bad intention but because the whole thing is just out-of-sync with what’s happening outside to entirely personalize life in a wide range of areas.  Outside, the trends have given people a great freedom of choice, freedom of movement, and freedom of time.  They expect this now and are jarred by the authoritarian leanings of education institutions, the regimentation, the testing, the lack of true personalization, the buzz-kill of it all.

Where education is most not is being an “un-structured” structure of learning.  It is a bureaucracy and not necessarily a network.  It is a retail store you have to go to, and not Amazon.  It is a go-to-the-movie-place instead of Netflix.  It’s drive-to-the-bank instead of banking online and having live chat for any help you need.  It’s out of sync.  Or is it?  Some places are certainly doing amazingly interesting changes in how they deliver learning.  Some of the thinking by folks in the State of Georgia Department of Education are truly mind-blowing.  

Now is the time to start talking about a reorientation to the current economy for education for real, before it’s too late. 

Orientation is Step One of being “Designed for Digital,” which will be more thoroughly explored at the Learning Counsel’s national Gathering in Houston Nov. 28-30th.  We’re putting together a set of steps to explore for schools and districts in our next Special Report. Dr. Keith Osburn, Associate Superintendent, Georgia Virtual Learning from the State of Georgia will be there to share, along with a host of other really top thought leaders from across the country. 

Please send us all your good ideas about a reorientation for education to

And Register for our National Gathering in Houston, TX here: .