The Disappearing (and Thriving) Brands in Education

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A new list of the brands that may disappear in 2011 is circulating. On the list:

24/7 Wall St. has created a new list of brands that may disappear, which includes Readers Digest, Kia Motors, Dollar Thrifty (NYSE: DTG - News), Zale (NYSE: ZLC - News), Blockbuster (BLOKA.PK - News), T-Mobile, BP Plc (NYSE: BP - News), RadioShack (NYSE: RSH - News), Merrill Lynch and Moody's (NYSE: MCO - News).

The reason stated is that the current economic climate has "accelerated this process."

I think that the current economic climate coupled with the opportunities of learning via the Internet are also accelerating what is happening in education.

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Opportunities in Education

There is great opportunity in this day and age for education that is truly innovative. This includes:
  1. Virtual schools that truly understand virtual schooling with accessible professors, curriculum delivered in multiple modalities (not just text), interactive and lively online discussions, with niche topics and partnerships with leading personalities of the day. Virtual schooling as it can be hasn't really been invented yet.

  2. Lively massive collaborative partnerships between schools that join students together in student-centered project based learning experiences that truly help students understand technology AND the content areas they are covering. (i.e. Flat Classroom Project, Digiteen Project, Eracism Project, and NetGenEd) These projects should be the best of blended learning - face to face teachers who are in tune with their students and rich, online, collaborative environments.

  3. Face to Face Schools with flexible schedules that allow students to check out early and complete virtual schooling on their own. The current "cheeks in the seats" model of schooling (if a student isn't physically at the school the school doesn't receive funding for them) is holding back students from what they want.  In today's competitive environment they WILL get it and this artificial limitation is going to case state schooling to take a hit in the future!

  4. Tandem Learning Partnerships at all levels between colleges, K12, industry and others to create multiple audiences and tandem learning experiences. This includes Textbook companies who currently only view their product as a book - when they should be selling an experience that includes educational networks and collaborative connections between classrooms using the same book as well as ebook licenses.
  5. Progressive Intellectual Property Organizations - See #3 below.
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    Triggers that Will Cause the Disappearing Brands in Education

      Where the educational organizations that will feel increasing pressure and problems:
      1. Barrier Schools - Schools that create barriers. Between the classroom and the world through the Internet.  Between students and the world outside by not allowing access to virtual schooling opportunities OUTSIDE of  school class time whether they are related to a class at school or a separate class opportunity altogether. Between students and USEFUL uses of technology.

      2. Barrier Funding Mechanisms - the current mechanism holding back most state schools in the USA is the funding mechanism. Invented in the days of limited mobility, it is clearly based upon how many students are at a school. Schools are now bricks and clicks - or at least they should be.

        Online facilities should be funded as should off-line facilities and in some cases content should be syndicated outside the walls of the school to supplement the learning elsewhere. Schools are not incented to film and syndicate that amazing history teacher who delivers discussions of history to enraptured students that other schools wish they could duplicate. Neither is that history teacher incentivised to go to the extra effort to share outside the walls. The state of Georgia spends around $25Million on their virtual high school program. What they are missing is that every school should be virtual! (Plus, why do we call it virtual school -- are you not really learning - you're either learning or you are not - if you're learning online it is online school! I feel the term virtual diminishes what these school really need to be doing anyway. Online learning!)

      3. Barrier Intellectual Property Rights - This is a struggle and a tough one. Partnerships and intellectual property sharing needs to happen between schools, teachers, and students. According to rules at most schools all IP developed by students and teachers belongs to the school.  Is the school going to market the IP? No!! So, what is happening is that the school is losing with undeveloped IP and the students and teachers are losing with unmarketable IP that they do not own but created. IT IS A LOSE LOSE.

        I predict that schools who create more open IP arrangements for some sort of IP sharing and profit sharing will attract the best and the brightest in many areas as well as the best and brightest teachers! This is a time whose idea has come.  Additionally, textbook companies that allow ancillaries to be developed by teachers and schools with some sort of shared IP will also benefit as will schools and teachers.

        Colleges and schools see this as giving away something, but those with nothing to lose (upstart charter schools, virtual online schools and others) will see it as an opportunity to attract the talented and savvy and will profit from it in the future. This will incent teachers to want to create and share content and allow them to be paid more WITHOUT IT COMING OUT OF THE SCHOOL BUDGET! We're missing this opportunity as things are now, but not for long.

      4. Barrier Thinking - "We can't make this work, so we won't try." Some people don't think outside the box - they just invent new boxes!!  As with most state virtual school programs - they just invented a new box with a new barrier funding mechanism!

        It is time to realize that we are educating a new generation and we need new thinking. I'm not one who thinks that we destroy everything we have but it is time for policy makers and leaders to realize that if a barrier has been built, it can also be dismantled.

        To remove walls, the first stone is always taken away in the mind of one person.
         We are moving into a time of tremendous change and upheaval. The charter school movement in the states is just the birth pains. Thomas Friedman says, "It will either be done by you or to you."

        You have a choice -- grab your surfboard and be part of innovation and change or drown in the tidal wave heading in your direction.

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