PPP in Indian Education

Rather than a simple listing of models — currently there are over 30 variants within the broader literature on PPPs in infrastructure — what would be timely and helpful is for the MHRD to set out how the investment of the private sector in schools would operate in relation to the current flow of government educational funds from the level of district, to block- and cluster-level institutions. The implications for ownership of schools in the note on PPP aren’t clear — and this when we already have the categories of government, government-aided private and unaided private schools in usage. Under the new models being proposed by the MHRD, would it be the case that if a private organisation takes over the entire educational operation of a school, it’d change its status from a government school to a private school (through an opting out of the state system for new academies, as is being suggested by David Cameron’s government)? Also, if private finance was only for the upkeep of the building, would it create a new category of private-aided government schools? Via Let’s go by the book – Hindustan Times

The MHRD is really in a fix trying to decide the manner in which they would like private participation in education. The article lists the three “broad” ways in which private enterprises may choose to participate, however, the government is stuck hard on the premise that education needs to be run by the state.

The Teacher as an Editor

An interesting read today about the new dynamic nature of textbooks.

“Macmillan, one of the largest textbook publishers in the world, is introducing a new software for instructors that will allow them to change the online versions of textbooks that their students use.

According to the New York Times, with DynamicBooks, ‘Professors will be able to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations or illustrations.'”

(Via Macmillan to allow professors to change textbooks online, on the fly: )

Yet another “path-breaking” initiative from Macmillan (I am referring to the Publishers’ Manifesto [Summary | Full PDF Download] that they came up with a while ago)

This is truly an interesting take on text books by Macmillan. However, as the article rightly suggests, it has it’s dangers about how the textbook may be used by a teacher; and the potential for misuse.

So, does a dynamic textbook have its place in education? I think it does. Only, however, if the delete action is restricted. It is one thing to allow creating context to the content; yet another to allow editing that can change meaning.

Also, I think it is better to leave the “editing” of a textbook to the publishers, who have been doing it well for years. How many teachers would really be qualified to “edit” content? The deletion part – then – is quite scary.

Finally, I wish it was clear how students would use these books. Would they also be allowed to make their own notes and pictures in the text book?

Talk of prosumer content!

Open-source or Open-ness?

Michael Feldstein analyses a Blackbord response to the pilot study by the University of North Carolina for Sakai, which will lead to a further investigation of Sakai as a replacement for Blackboard. While it’s a long post (and it should be, for it is an excellent analysis), one thing that caught my attention was about Support Risks (quoted below)

Blackboard’s Response to Open Source: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt: “If Blackboard can’t help you fix your problems, you’re out of luck, because nobody else understands their code or has the right to look at it. If your Moodle vendor can’t help you, you can go to another vendor, or find another adopting school that knows how to fix the problem. You can also fix it yourself. You don’t have to, but unlike with Blackboard, you can. Likewise, if Blackboard were to go out of business (ask WebCT or ANGEL customers if this sort of thing ever happens), you would’t be able to find somebody else to support and continue to develop your platform. Not true with open source support vendors.”

(Via e-Literate.)

This is a very interesting situation to be in, for almost all product companies, in a way, against their open-source alternatives. And I keep coming back to the iTunes App Store model for the iPhone (and therefore the proposed Google Wave/Android App Store). So, it may still work if the product company retains the core platform (Apple in this case), but does open up the platform — to an extent — to allow extensions to the core platform.

I suppose it’s really the confidence of the customer that is at play and at risk here than anything else. It is not necessarily open-source and the cost of free that is in play, but the experience of being locked to an obscure roadmap that’s making more folks consider open-source.

Your take?

About the Online Revolution

In an interesting article by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael B. Horn, the authors make a strong case for schools to get their classrooms online and refers to the “Race to the Top Fund” that:

[…] provides competitive grants to encourage and reward States that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform; implementing ambitious plans in the four education reform areas described in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) […]

As part of the conclusion, in the article, the authors say:

“Currently, student achievement data is represented by test scores—a limited prism through which to evaluate teachers. But online learning, coupled with robust data systems, could change this, as it would allow states to gain insight into the interactions between students, teachers, and the curriculum. It would also provide a robust and diverse array of measures by which to understand what is and is not working at a much deeper level—and in what circumstances.” Revolution in the Classroom – The Atlantic (August 12, 2009)

This is probably the most significant value in an education process that online learning brings to the table.

Consulting, in Education

Education consultancy: In the know?: asks Gillian Evans. (Via Guardian Unlimited: Mortarboard.)

The remarks on the state of consulting in education are fairly on target. She is obviously an authority on the subject.

Management consultants are generally geared to solving problems in corporations, at times in government. This is not to say that they cannot help or work with educational institutions. There are obvious parallels and opportunities for idea cross-pollination. Education, however, has hardly been a focus of consulting. The traditional model of education has been fiercely independent and authoritative to need or request consulting.

But it is obvious that the education industry is changing – significantly. More so because how students learn, is changing. And that has changed because of the environment in which they live today.

Coming back to Gillian’s article, it is not surprising that no one asks for credentials or expertise in the education domain when engaging consulting organisations. No consulting organisation ever positions itself as such. In fact, even PA Consulting (the consultants linked to, in her article, do not list education as an industry that they have expertise in). Yet they have come up with a paper for the Higher Education Industry (which the article links to).

There is an obvious gap here and it will be a significant opportunity to address by whoever chooses to take it up. And Gillian’s article lists all the key skills that will be required by such a consulting organisation.

One extra skill I will add to the list of this hitherto unknown education consulting organisation is: technology. Not just technology, but the relevant application and sane implementation of educational technology in institutions; one that manages learning for students, resources for teachers and administration for the management of the institute.

Destabilising Establishments

While the news in itself isn’t something that is new or unique, it certainly is one in line for establishing a trend that labels will have to rethink their strategy.

Prince Gives The Finger To The Labels—Again: “[…] So it’s fitting that LotusFlow3r.com, his latest project, aims to offer fans a smorgasbord of digital content with little to no label interference. […] Since die-hard fans will only be able to legitimately access this content through the site, it’s a nod to my colleague Rory’s suggestion that labels (but also artists) set up their own digital-distribution platforms instead of relying on third-parties like iTunes and Amazon.”

(Via paidContent.org.)

Music, somehow has always set an example for other content to follow. Will authors publish themselves? And while the Artist formerly called Prince probably has the wherewithal to set up a platform to distribute music, what of the individual author?

Free Content’s Responsibility

The tag line reads, “education can be…affordable”.

Using a collaborative and web-based compilation model that can manifest open resource content as an adaptive textbook, termed the “FlexBook”, CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality, locally and temporally relevant, educational web texts.

Enter flexbooks from cK-12.org. Enter, potentially, the ultimate in prosumer content creation for education. And it is licensed under Creative Commons, which gives it the edge; most academics support free content.

A few articles on the site talk of how various states across the United States are adopting online resources — the advantages are many: affordability, children do not have to carry heavy textbooks, dependency on publishers, content currency, choice of providers, and not in the least, a green classroom.

Content is still King, however, the King is now more accessible to its subjects. There is just that added responsibility that the King has — educate the users how best to make good use of this content. And while the obvious benefits of online (and free) content are many, the advantage of free content for teaching and learning needs to be harnessed well.

Traditional content came with traditional ideas on how to employ content for teaching and learning. It may not work very well, if the content is online, structured very differently from the standard-print, and the users employ online content for teaching and learning in the same way as standard-print. Users need to have resources to help them understand how best they can use online content to ensure teaching and learning. New method has to meet new medium.

PS: Twenty minutes since this post was published, I stumble upon the “Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning” by Peter Tittenberger and George Siemens. Talk of instant gratification!