Can Schools Take a Google Approach?

I recently revisited What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis and was struck by how it spoke to me about the needs of today's schools. Here are a few points that really resonated with me.


New Relationships are Forming

"Give the people control and we will use it. Don't and you will lose it" (p. 11). 

Are school leaders losing students (i.e., as physical, emotional, or intellectual dropouts) simply because they are trying to control the system? What would happen if students and teachers had more control over the learning process? What if these stakeholders controlled what they learn, when they learn, how they learn, and why they learn it? Co-collaboration / co-learning / co-construction could be the norm. 

"Your worst customer [student] is your best friend" (p. 20).

What if leaders of schools looked at those students who are performing worst and treated them as allies? These students know what is not working in the system and probably have lots of great ideas about what could be done to improve things.  On the flip side, Jarvis says that "Your best customer [student] is your partner" (p. 22). Ensuring that students are happy and getting the education they want / desire / deserve makes them happy customers. These customers / students are the best salespersons of the school. What we do now is say to students that we, as leaders, know what is best for all students' futures. This is despite the fact that we have no idea what the future holds or what specific skills they will need for jobs that simply do not exist yet. This has been discussed here, here, and here.

There is a New Ethic Out There

"Make mistakes well" (p. 91).

Today's accountability system is great at telling students what they did right and rewarding them for it. But what if schools were more concerned with what students did wrong and gave them the liberty to fail often? Or, better yet, what if we allowed teachers to get it wrong from time to time? Do we reward students and teachers for sorting out how they did something wrong or do we reward them for only those things they got right? 

"Life is a beta" (p. 93).

Today's school system is set up into disparate parts and silos. That is, students take subjects in given time slots for a given number of weeks to earn a given grade. Thus the end of the course indicates the end of learning for that silo. Does this reflect life after the classroom? What if school was a big experiment - a constant work in progress? In the real world, our intellectual skills are not used one at time for a given number of minutes per day. Instead, we use multiple skills to accomplish the task at hand, knowing full well that that task may morph tomorrow.

"Be honest" (p. 95) and "be transparent" (p. 97) and "collaborate" (p. 98).

These points ring true for students, teachers, and leaders.  As leaders we should be asking ourselves how we support environments that allow everyone to tell their truth, in an open and honest manner, and in a way that invites others into our learning space.

Image Credit: Antonio Manfredonio's Google Lego 50th Anniversary Inspiration

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