Random Thoughts

Can There Really Be A Revolution In Education?

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Student Protest

There has been a lot of talk at ISTE12 this year about education needing a “Revolution not an Evolution”.


1. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.
2. Sociology: a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence. Compare social evolution.
Social Evolution: the gradual development of society and social forms, institutions, etc., usually through a series of peaceful stages. Compare revolution ( def. 2 ) .

What is this education revolution going to be? Who are we going to overthrow? And the biggest issue of all…..revolutions means you are willing to die or at least get fired for your cause and honestly I don’t know to many teachers who believe strongly enough about what this education revolution should change into to quit their jobs. 

So what we end up with is a social evolution and I think that’s what we’re seeing. This is why change is gradual in education. Those of us in power; administrators, teachers, etc like our jobs…like having a job and therefore we can’t cause a revolution. We can cause an evolution and that’s what we’re seeing.

So if teachers don’t have the power to bring a revolution to education who does?

Parents? Yes….parents could decide not to send their children to school. Will that happen? I don’t think so.

Which leaves us where?

Students….this is who will bring the revolution and this is who we need to be talking to if we truly believe there needs to be a revolution in education. Of course the revolution isn’t coming so what we’re getting is an evolution of education.

In my TEDx presentation I talk about students being the change agents….and if we are going to see a revolution it will come from them. Little did I know just 6 months after giving that TED Talk what I explained would play out in Egypt. Students and people taking to social networks and creating a revolution. 

It is scary to think the power that even just high school and middle school students have via these social networks. Here’s the issue….students survive school and are worried about real world problems. Most recently students used Facebook to walk out of classes on May 1st over immigration laws

So we can call for a revolution all we want, but unless we’re willing to take to the streets and risk our own jobs it just won’t happen. So we end up evolving, pushing, and making change one slow step at a time. It’s frustrating work…..but it’s the work we have to do…we have to keep evolving, keep pushing. It will take time but we’ll get there. 


I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      It’s always great to see you. I’m sure we’ll be running into each other even more both here in the States and Internationally.

  1. Phillip Cowell Reply

    Well I wasn’t at ISTE, but perhaps they were referring more to revolution in the sense of a radical change in the way we do things?

    And let’s be honest, for as long as most of us have been teaching, there has always been groups and individuals calling for just that. Radical change. Well before digital technology surfaced.

    The difference in my mind is that for the first time since the invention of mass produced paper, a revolution in education is actually in practical terms, possible.

    The tricky part is that education ministries, or any ministry for that matter, move at a glacial pace at the best of times. Now, with technology and it’s uses evolving so rapidly, one wonders how they will ever instigate the changes necessary to catch up!

    What I love about being part of this evolution is that because of its newness, there is literally no guide book to follow. It’s like the dawn of education, when people first tried to figure out the best way to teach children to read.

    Of course we are going to make many mistakes along the way, but wow, what an exciting time to be a passionate educator with a love of technology!

    Great post as always Jeff

  2. Jeff,

    You raise some interesting ideas about revolution versus evolution and students being the change agents. I wonder however if it should be what we are going to overthrow instead of who?

    Did we revolt against King George III or the idea of being taxed, controlled, and generally treated like second-class citizens with no say in the matter…remember “no taxation without representation”? What we need to overthrow is the way we take new technology and ideas and adapting them to education. We need to adapt education to new technology and ideas instead. In the past technology has been “domesticated to the Industrial Revolution model of education (Rowan & Bigum, 2012). Let’s use its capabilities to transform education instead.

    You are correct in noting that it is the students (at least their needs) that are driving the current calls for change. Students have long adapted to using technology in one way at home and in a completely other way at school, but that is changing. The calls for change are louder and more frequent and pace of that change is accelerating.

    I’m not sure the technology forward thinking teachers at ISTE want a revolution in the classic, or modern Arab Spring sense. Precious few of us are willing to give up our lives or jobs. Perhaps they are tired of being called the cause of the problems in education, especially since they feel they have some inspiring answers to help address those problems. Perhaps it is an evolution of the word revolution.

    At any rate, and semantics aside, I’ll settle for something in between. Not a revolution, but certainly a faster form of evolution. Step out of the way of us trying to prepare the students for the 21st Century and no one gets hurt. We all should learn something along way.

  3. Maybe we can evolve in what we consider to be a revolution or revolutionize how we create social evolution. Personally, I view a revolution as a change of paradigm, especially in education.

  4. I agree with Linda that in order to have a revolution in education you need to have a change in paradigm. Also I would say that not only the students can make a difference but teachers also. A collaboration between them might lead to a durable change in education.

  5. The revolution has to start with a change in the system of education. That means starting with a focus on the student and away from the school.
    Book Education Revolution by Bill Vining

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  7. Pingback: Reflection Week #10: Can There Really Be a Revolution in Education? » Mr. Kennedy's Classroom

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