Friday, June 29, 2012

Google takes creativity out back and shoots it, Old Yeller style

I’ve reflected about Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) before.  The teaching strategy takes a collection of good teaching practices and scripts them to the point of blandness.  The teacher is coached in this method by a “mentor” who will stand in the room and regularly interrupt the teacher when he/she is off-script, leaving the teacher annoyed, the kids amused, and the lesson a totally canned experience.  The creativity is gone, the critical thinking is gone, the relevancy to the lesson is gone, the dynamic teaching is gone.  What you have left is a bunch of programmed classrooms where the least common denominator will regurgitate information, do better on tests, and then reflect on how school was a miserable experience because all they did was prepare for a test that meant nothing to them.  Other students will simply check out because they can’t connect the information to anything relevant except for a test, and higher thinking (and those that aspire to higher thinking) students don’t play that.

Many teachers will say that EDI is the fad-de-jour.  It is the new curriculum style that will raise test scores because it depends on good teaching practices that are scripted by professionals with tons and tons of research.  Apparently this has been said a variety of times across the teaching profession throughout history.  Well, if there was one company interested in canned learning, what would it be?  Hmmmmm……

Dine Equity!  Oh, wait a minute.  Not really.  Yes, the company that owns IHOP and Applebees takes really good food ideas (French Toast, Ribs, Fine Well Drinks) and turns them into bland shit.  But while they sound like perfect companions to EDI, alas they are not meant to be.  Who is the winner?


Of course!  Why didn’t I think of that?  After all the creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin grew up with a Montessori education so why wouldn’t they love the ideas behind Explicit Direct Instruction?  Why indeed?  Why would Google pony up a $1 million to something that stops creativity at the front door of because the the creator, DataWorks, says that the script isn’t being followed?  

According to Google spokesman Jordan Newman, his company is especially appreciative of the EDI program's goal of teaching in the most efficient manner possible and the methodical nature through which the method achieves that goal.

"That kind of attention to detail is something that you see in Google's culture," Newman said. "I think the way that they (DataWORKS and MVWSD) have approached all of this is very very Google-y."

This really is a “what-in-the-hell-is-he-talking-about” moment.

Wasn’t it Google that came up with the 20% time to foster innovation?  Isn’t Google the company that gives massive amount of freedom to its employees in return for a strong work ethic, creative results, and high standards?  Funny, but I see EDI as the antithesis of Google.  I see the Google method as the spice and flavor of the great dishes of creativity.  I see EDI as Denis Leary taking all my favorite meals and putting them in a blender and demanding that you suck the masterpiece through a straw.  It just doesn’t sit well regardless of what it contains.

So I wonder what Google is doing.  Maybe it needs a stronger tax write-off.  Maybe some good P.R. is in order since Android is regularly getting its ass kicked by Apple products.  Or maybe this is another example of why you don’t let the private sector decide what is in the public’s best interest.  It doesn’t always work out with a rational thought.

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