I recently read jaren lanier’s book “you are not a gadget”. Honestly, the book was poorly written, but contained some great ideas & concepts regarding our society’s blind embrace of
technology. He is a virtual reality pioneer, programmer, & friend/consultant to silicon valley, so he is no Luddite.

One of the concepts he discussed was “lock-in”. This phenomenon happens when a particular technology is used so pervasively that it becomes conceptually & economically unviable to break away from the locked-in technology when designing new technologies (I may be missing some aspect, but this is what lock-in is as I perceive it). As an extreme example, consider the alphabet. No new letters, or new orders are going to show up without causing quite a ruckus. Or consider the qwerty keyboard. If you saw a device without a qwerty for use, you’d likely nit consider buying it. Of course, there are always exceptions.

How has/will lock-in play out in schools?

As of right now, most school systems are locked-in by textbooks. Textbooks are expected. Textbooks are the source of curriculum. Textbook are a major portion of school budgets. I think most of you would agree, this state of affairs is unfortunate.

School schedules, age-based grade levels, grading systems, & discrete subjects are all seemingly “locked-in”. I believe that identifying lock-in is important as we strive to reform education.
Once we identify that a particular practice is the result of lock-in, we ought attack it voraciously. This attack doesn’t mean we automatically get rid of the lock-in. Instead, we ask why. If we
have no compelling reason (making teachers’ lives easier is not compelling) we should consider alternatives. I think identifying lock-in might be a way to begin difficult reform discussions within buildings.

Once we are aware of lock-in we must guard against falling back into it. I see new reform efforts often fall victim to lock-in. Adopting a prepackaged curriculum, or a new single technological device will likely lead to lock-in.

So, how do we keep our schools & the greater education system away from lock-in? That is, how do we remain flexible so we can more quickly adapt? How do we prevent the kinds of institutional momentum that now hinders our reform efforts?

This entry was posted in Education Reform, Technology in the Classroom, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Lock-in

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Avoiding Lock-in « Teaching as a dynamic activity -- Topsy.com

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