Malcolm Gladwell, best selling author of The Tipping Point and Blink, will deliver the first day keynote address at Bb World ’06. I recently had a chance to talk to Gladwell about how his ideas might be applied to education.
Gladwell has written extensively about education in his New Yorker contributions, and is no stranger to controversy when it comes to the subject. At the K12 level, he wrote in the New Yorker (9-15-2003) that the No Child Left Behind law will result in a Henry Ford-like assembly line where standardized parts are assembled into an education. “If schools were factories, America would have solved the education problem a century ago,” Gladwell writes. He also hit a nerve with his thoughts on what the SAT actually measures (12-17-01). His most recent education article, Getting In: The Social Issues of Ivy League Admission (10-10-05), pulls no punches on who the Ivy League still excludes.
In a recent conversation with Gladwell, he told me about three issues that immediately come to mind when he considers education: framing, innovation, and learning styles. With regard to framing the discussion in education, Gladwell says, “Just as with healthcare and the context for healthcare reform, the overwhelming problem is an inability to move forward until we agree on the way we talk about it.” Gladwell’s point is well taken. We often lack a way to frame the technology issues that surround e-Learning beyond the technology itself.
Gladwell raises the issue of learning styles next. “It’s absurd to think there is only one door into knowledge. There have to be many doors.”
“The more I learn about online, the more I am impressed by the need for flexibility in teaching and learning styles,” Gladwell told me. “There are such profound differences in how we learn and teach that any structural change that improves flexibility of learning is a value. We need to create this by allowing people to approach knowledge in their own idiosyncratic way.”