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The Future of Education Reform

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We are social animals, and the #edreform wave is becoming more social. It is younger, tech savvy, and, ironically, it is not entirely concerned with ed reform as a political practice. It is interested in cultural change, as a result of tinkering with how we learn and teach.

I stepped off the plane in Seattle after a five hour flight from New York and met Gregg Alpert, who is the new Developer Evangelist at Pearson's Future Technologies Group.

Gregg had seen me check-in on Foursquare, which I had broadcast on Twitter. He sent me a Tweet asking if I wanted to meet up. We did.

This is what education is becoming. If there is no "market" for education entrepreneurs, there is a community that uses tech, and builds a future in tech. People feel comfortable meeting people who would normally be perfect strangers, and exchange ideas with them.

The baby-boomers who were trying to jump start the education reform bus are probably not going to be the ones who create the change, though they might have sparked the conversation.

A certain generation works on the web, their conversation is actually more than just talk and relationships with politicians. It's proactive, active talk. Talking forms communities, exposes new technologies, creates hackathons, and unites people who would simply be out of reach if they worked or lived in the system the baby boomers think they are trying to change.

Innovators come from outside of the system, and they are building their own with the help of educators.

Baby Boomers are aligning themselves for new power and control, mimicking the system that they came from. The younger among us see this, and we remain focused on building, teaching, learning in a cultural milieu.

The real change in education is going to happen on platforms and it will be "consumer-driven." Those consumers are students, communities, and teachers. They are not, in most cases, people who have branded themselves as education reform leaders.

It is on platforms that learning and community organization will begin, and it is on platforms, and through platforms that people come together. Platforms form their own communities.

Udemy; Skillshare; Khan Academy (to name a few): they are more than just disruption makers in the evolving education vertical; they are more than just platforms that enable people to learn and to teach. They are really the platforms on which mini-societies will be built. They will be micro-communities and much more.

Since platforms mix and mash up people from different communities offline, these new education platforms will completely flip on their heads not only the district model for K-12 and all the trappings of what we have come to believe is the public education system.

It will, for example, be the place where a primary student from Ghana can learn the same information as the kid from Wisconsin. And they won't do it at the same time, though they might have the same teachers.

When that happens, leadership is less about filling the places of power and then flipping a switch. It's really more about organic utilization of reputation, getting along with your peers and enabling learning through sharing and collaborative consumption, a la the Airbnb model, on platforms that students and people use every day to get their own version of learning enabled.

In this case, peers are not political leaders and political leaders mean less to education, since the intimacy and sharing enabled by platforms is so open, and so frictionless, there's no need for the levers of power to push through authority.

It's your classroom, because it's modeled after your identity and your friends, and your way of learning.

Imagine a 34,500 person classroom and the communication that goes on there, asynchronously.

When you are managing learning of thousands of students, you need to find students in the legions that can manage their own communities. Kids do this already, on Facebook, on other platforms. Students do this outside of school, just like Gregg and I did this.

We see each other. We meet. We learn from each other.

Credibility and certification is not packaged as control and like a system. It's more about who you know and what you know, and how you treat other people. It's very simliar to how teachers form their own communities and cultures.

In that kind of model -- where student and teacher leaders help craft the learning environment -- district control doesn't look so feasible. A standardized system doesn't seem to make sense. Things we do in platforms have immediate impact in the real world. Learning delivers tangible change and results.

Education looks more democratic.

Say goodbye to helping leadership get smart on the district level, and say hello to getting community started. The platforms are already active.

The students are ready to learn.