Building Relationships to Change Society

In August of 2004, Dr. Laurie Bassi of McBassi & Company met with a group of teacher from the new Bluffton High School (SC) which I was a part of. During a break Dr. Bassi told me the factors of production have changed to reflect a service based economy. The new factors of productions are Land, Human Capital, and Relational Capital. This stayed with me and I used them in an honors economics class I taught. Today I heard Clarence Fisher talk about how education will be built on relationships with no regard to geography in his keynote address for the K12 Online Conference. This will be very important as the walls of classrooms are torn down bit by bit as technology progresses.

I see this happening in two ways. First, students with specific educational needs will be matched with teachers who can meet those needs regardless of physical proximity. Technology will bring the two together. Virtual schools are just the beginning of this trend. Next will come classrooms where a teacher might only be teaching half of the students in the room. The rest of the students will interact with the teacher via distance learning. The group of students who are not working with the physical teacher will be working with another teacher at another school. Second, as teachers and students search for new experiences, they will build relationships with groups of students and teachers from anywhere in the world.

Mr. Fisher mentioned something else that interested me. He said society will have to change for our classrooms to change from the current model of rows of desks with the teacher at the front. Fisher sees classrooms becoming more like studios where there will many different activities going on at once managed by the teacher. This classroom will be noisy and chaotic which current administrators and teachers will have a hard time with. Will society change? Absolutely! Society is already changing as digital natives are moving into adulthood and going to work. Blogs, wikis, social networks, and other Web 2.0 applications are finding their way into business. Eventually, this way of thinking will find its way into education but education moves very slow. It will take time for the changing of the guard to effect the total change in education as digital immigrants will inevitably move out and pass the torch to the new generations.

Yesterday was the second and final day of the South Carolina NWEA Conference in Hilton Head Island. I attended two breakout sessions to round out my conference experience. The first breakout was on Academic Audits done by Sandra Chavez. The second was about NWEA's Knowledge Academy or its online instructional tool to help clients implement MAP testing and later use data the tests yield to make informed educational decisions.

Beaufor County was the first school district to use Academic Audit in helping boost academic achievment of students. Academic Audit is based on the research of Dr. Lauri Bassi of McBassi & Company. Dr. Bassi's theory is that investments in human capital will produce meaninful returns on that investments. Too many organizations look at labor and the training of labor as a cost that reduces bottom line profits. However, Dr. Bassi demonstrated that organizations that invest in continued training of employees and reducing the barriers that hinder employee productivity, while reducing profits in the short term, will increase productivity and organizational profits. For a school district, student achievement is considered the profit of such an organization. Surveys are conducted on how well employees believe they can perform their job at various schools. The data is then grouped and shared with school principals and district administrators. With the data, leaders can work on making changes that allow increased productivity and eventually increased student achievement. As a side note, I have used Dr. Bassi's work in my economics classes. In my opinion she has rewritten the factors of production for the new service/information based economy of the 21st Century.

The second breakout session was about NWEA's Knowledge Academy. Knowledge Academy are mostly online tutorials to help client schools conduct MAP testing then use the data the tests generate. This is a great idea but unfortunately it is also, unwittingly, a well kept secret at NWEA. A recommendation I made was to make links to Knowledge Academy more prominate on the Association's website, Hopefully, they will take this suggestion and run with it. Such information would have helped me greatly when I was trying to set up and run MAP testing back in August and September of 2006.