The background and the reason behind MLTI or Maine Learning Technology Initiative is the need to revolutionize education and create access to technology. The roots of this initiative are from the idea that modern technology, though has reached the hands of millennial children, is not focused on education. For example, the smartphones used almost by every child within the age group of 7-16 are not used as a tool of education but entertainment. The question of what is education and what is the role of technology in education can be discussed here in detail.
There is a major climate crisis, as stated by Al Gore. However, I believe there is a second climate crisis, which is as severe, which has the same origins, and that we have to deal with the same urgency. This is not a crisis of, natural resources but a crisis of human resources. I believe we make very poor use of our talents. Many people go through their whole lives having no real sense of what their talents may be or if they have any talent at all. I meet all kinds of people who do not think they are good at anything. I divide the world into two groups now. I meet people who do not enjoy what they do. They simply go through their lives getting on with it. They get no great pleasure from what they do. They endure it rather than enjoy it, and wait for the weekend. I also meet people who love what they do and could not imagine doing anything else. If you said, “Do not do this anymore,” they would wonder what you are talking.
It is not what they do it is who they are. They say, “But this is me, you know. It would be foolish to abandon this because it speaks to my most authentic self.” it is not true of enough people. In fact, on the contrary, it is still true of a minority of people. I think there are many possible explanations for it. High among them is education, because education, in a way, dislocates very many people from their natural talents. Human resources are like natural resources; they are often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they are not just lying around on the surface. You have to create circumstances where they show themselves.
You might imagine education would be the way that happens, but too often, it is not. Every education system in the world is being reformed now and it is not enough. Reform is no use anymore because that is simply improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else. One of the challenges is to innovate fundamentally in education. Innovation is hard because it means doing something that people do not find very easy, for the most part. It means challenging what we take for granted, things that we think are obvious. The great problem for reform or transformation is the tyranny of common sense.
Abraham Lincoln said this in December 1862 to the second annual meeting of Congress.
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.” “As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
I love the word, “disenthrall.” there are ideas that all of us are enthralled to, which we simply take for granted as the natural order of things, the way things are. Many of our ideas have been formed, not to meet the circumstances of this century, but to cope with the circumstances of previous centuries. Our minds are still hypnotized by them, and we have to disenthrall ourselves of some of them.
Doing this is easier said than done. It is very hard to know, by the way, what it is you take for granted. The reason is that you take it for granted. Mostly, the people within the age group of 25-30 wear wristwatches. Teenagers do not wear wristwatches. I do not mean they cannot, they just often choose not to. The reason is those of us over 25 were brought up in a pre-digital culture, so for us, if you want to know the time, you have to wear something to tell it. Kids now live in a digitized world; the time is available everywhere for them. They see no reason to do this. You do not need either; it is just that you have always done it and you carry on doing it.
Similarly, there are things we are enthralled to in education. For example, idea of linearity: that it starts at one point, go through a track, and if you do everything right, you will end up set for the rest of your life. However, the fact remains, life is not linear; it is organic. We create our lives symbiotically as we explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us. However, we have become obsessed with this linear narrative. The pinnacle for education is getting you to college. We are obsessed with getting people to college. I do not mean you should not go, but not everybody needs to go or go now. Maybe they go later, not right away. Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability. At the heart of the challenge is to reconstitute our sense of ability and of intelligence. This linearity is a problem.
The other big issue is conformity. We have built our education systems on the model of fast food. There are two models of quality assurance in catering. One is fast food, where everything is standardized. The other is where nothing is standardized; they are customized to local circumstances. We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it is impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies. Human talent is tremendously diverse. People have very different aptitudes. Often, people are good at things they do not really care for. It is about passion, something that excites our spirit and our energy. If you are doing the thing that you love to do, that you are good at, time takes a different course entirely.
If you are doing something you love, an hour feels like five minutes. If you are doing something, which does not resonate with your spirit five minutes feels like an hour. The reason so many people are opting out of education is because it does not feed their spirit, it does not feed their energy or their passion. We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model based on principles of agriculture.
We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it is an organic process. You cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish. Therefore, when we look at reforming education and transforming it, it is not like cloning a system. There are many great models. It is about customizing to your circumstances and personalizing education to the people, you are teaching. That is the answer to the future because it is not about scaling a new solution; it is about creating a movement in education in which people develop their own solutions, but with external support based on a personalized curriculum. There are people who represent extraordinary resources in business, in multimedia, on the Internet. These technologies, combined with the extraordinary talents of teachers, provide an opportunity to revolutionize education. Technology needs to get involved in it because it is vital, not just to ourselves, but to the future of our children.
However, we have to change from the industrial model to an agricultural model, where each school can be flourishing tomorrow. That is where children experience life. There has been a lot of talk about dreams over the course many conferences and seminars on education and youth development. While dreaming for a better future is a romanticized and idealistic concept, the reality of it can only be achieved if the technology is applied to every aspect of education. The MLTI program has tried to address this issue from a technological basis and has been successful in reaching out to over 700 Public Schools so far.