Saturday, January 23, 2010

Is Your School Whale Blubber?

The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate – history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it.
- Brian Eno quoted January 2010 in The Guardian newspaper

Eno's talking about records and the music industry here, but I think quite a good analogy is to be made to mass-produced printed books, institutionalized/industrialized public education, and a number of things the digital landscape is rendering obsolete.

And I think every teacher, admin, schoolboard member, and super oughta be reviewing the recent history of the past 15 years of the music industry -- from the rise of low-cost digital alternatives to traditional analog studio recording to the rapid decline in profit and usefulness of cassettes and CDs. [You do remember cassettes, right? If you are like me, your most recent auto is the first you've owned that hasn't had a cassette player.]

'Alternatives' and 'Usefulness': they are the key words.

Oh yeah, and 'Whale Blubber'.


  1. Whale blubber. I love it.

    I think we also ought to be reviewing the recent history of newspapers. Schools, like newspapers, have invested hugely in brick-and-mortar establishments, with expensive infrastructure (like printers) and staffs (like journalists and teachers). Unfortunately, but realistically, all of this may be rendered superfluous by good digital education. You can't count on your physical institution being valuable if better professors, materials, and learning are available online for a tenth of the price or free.

  2. I agree with the post and with Andrew's comment. Unfortunately, though many new teachers are open to new ideas, methods and technologies, there still exists a staunch old guard (dwindling though they are) who are opposed to it. In my school we have teachers who were advocating spending money on atlas's and globes. When I needed the students to look something up I told them to pull out their itouches, iphones and personal laptops and use Google Earth.
    Sadly a parent is complaining that I let the students use this technology in class - just backwards thinking in my opinion.

  3. Good analogy. I fear by the time they figure it out it will be too late. I was talking with a board member recently and he thinks the 1 to 1 computer initiative is the future, but is waiting to see evidence that it increases test scores. I personally think it has nothing to do with test scores and this quote is a great example of why. I wonder why no one is doing a study on how pencils and paper raise test scores...


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