Random Thoughts

How long does change take?

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Napster was started in June 1999 and for many marked the beginning of an era of free digital music.

For the next 10 years the music industry would try to stop people from downloading free, and what they claimed to be, illegal music.

In January 2009 the largest online music store in the world, Apple’s iTunes, announced it will offer all 10 million songs DRM free, allowing people to download and share their music without any Digital Rights Management.

It took the music industry 10 years to change to a new model, to understand a new landscape, and to learn to take advantage of it.


The newspaper industry has been in sharp decline for the past couple of years. If blogs, which really started gaining momentum in 2005 (my own opinion), are to blame and if they follow the same slow path of change as the music industry will not find a way to survive in this new free digital landscape until around 2015.


YouTube was created in 2005 and really gained ground in 2006 and 2007. The television industry is just starting to feel the heat, and following the path of its brother, the music industry, has tried to conform the new media to old ways. If it follows the same path as its brother the music industry, we will not see a real revolution in the way television is viewed until 2016ish.

The conversations about the changes that have been happening and continue to happen in education around these new models of learning, and digital landscape have only been going on since about 2002 (my own opinion).

Which means we’re looking at 2012, if education follows the same path as the music industry, before we see some real change. Until then we keep chipping away at it…as it’s little changes that lead to big ones.

Just a thought!

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.


  1. Jeff,

    Been following your blog(s) for a bit. I can see you’re on a rampage of free media. I enjoy hearing your arguments. This is often a difficult pill to swallow for those who attempt to make their living from their “art” (graphic, text, image, whatever). Which, when we talk about open media, see their livelihood being “stolen” by others. My wife is just such a person, while I sit more on your side of the debate. Needless to say, we have some good discussions. The thoughts shared by Lessig in the TED video you shared are provoking, as usual. this most recent post of yours regarding the comparative time frame is interesting to contemplate. 2012 That’s not really so far off. If education can make these needed changes in that time, I’d say we’re doing pretty good.

    Thanks for your voice and thoughts.


    • Artists who are trying to make a living from their music want it shared (if not, they are confused). Artists don’t need to stop sharing. Sharing is what helps artists. What artists need to make a living is attention. Supporting the stopping of sharing is the last thing an artist should do.

      21st-century artists who have sold their entire copyright to another (whose business model tries to stop sharing) don’t deserve to have their voice heard on this subject.

  2. For the next 10 years the music industry would try to stop people from downloading free, and what they claimed to be, illegal music. […] It took the music industry 10 years to change to a new model, to understand a new landscape, and to learn to take advantage of it.

    You speak in a tense that implies the RIAA has changed and will no longer try to stop file-sharing. However, they are still trying to apply their old business and outdated copyright laws to the new technology despite dropping DRM and lawsuits. They are dropping DRM because they are finally understanding that it doesn’t stop people from sharing and actually drives fans to file-share. They are stopping lawsuits because they (finally) understand that the negative publicity isn’t worth it. But they still won’t accept the fact that file-sharing can be legal and profitable. Once they do *that*, then they have changed. Once we have services like Napster brought back and legalized, then they have changed.

    Until then, their next plan is to get ISPs to take the Internet away from those who file-share.

    Optimistically speaking, I think the glory days of Napster will eventually be had (boy I hope I am not reading this 20 years from now wondering how I could have got it wrong). But we’re still years from that and the RIAA currently has no plans to let that happen.

  3. The agents of change in all your case studies have been outsiders who have nothing to lose by disrupting the status quo. I am sure it is possible that education may experience similar disruptions, but who are the external agents for change in education?

    Is it thinker practitioners like you? Possibly, but you are still an insider like a media executive who wants to launch a website or maybe even stream some video. Will the change come from a social media or communication tool? Will the change come from hardware or software? These tools are making an impact, but who is the agent of change that will have the wish and the power to disrupt and fundamentally change schools?

    The nearest I have seen to this in my lifetime is the impact of Milton Friedman through Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher on the delivery of education in the UK. Did schools have league tables and performance targets before these people insisted that education was an economic activity that should be subject to the same management efficiencies and market forces as running a factory or supermarket?

    I accept and embrace much of the change you discuss in this blog and other forums, but is education too entrenched in its old methods and structures to reinvent itself in the way you advocate?

  4. I hope that you are too pessimistic. In the case of the media industries you cite, there was a lot of money and active business interest opposing change. I hope I’m not being naive in expecting that in education the issue is less of opposition than inertia, which should theoretically be much easier to change.

  5. We are living in a strange world where reading a story out loud in a library may be dangerous if someone is filming you. Singing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ at a birthday party can be considered breach of copyright. Given the volume some teenagers play their iPods at, they could almost be considered to be giving a public performance through their headphones. John Cage’s 4’33” of silence is a copyrighted work that was upheld in court a few years ago, so don’t whistle that one in the street.

    It’s all about money, not music, and sadly some of the great strides forward in music distribution are being thwarted by defenders of old technologies. One of my past students started a music streaming company called Pandora and for a while I enjoyed the streaming and bought a lot of new music through exposure to artists they suggested. the licensing laws outside the USA forced them to restrict access outside that country: http://blog.pandora.com/faq/#79

    So now I have to resort to other means to listen to new music. There’s a huge cabinet of new CD’s where I stack up my albums once I’ve purchased and ripped them to mp.3’s. In the attic is my collection of vinyls and a few cassette tapes that have survived.

    As a teacher it’s hard to know what guidelines to give to students. I’m personally addicted to mp3’s but only when ripped at 256kB unless it’s grungy music to start off with. Buying something you can only listen to on an Apple is crippling the consumer. And with DRM on the way out (they say) there’ll soon be another set of chains around the corner, or, as Ray Kurzweil predicts, on a bot in your bloodstream.

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  7. 2012? Geez, I’ve been hacking away at this change for the last 5 years. I also echo Breanna’s and CatShanghai’s comments: will it ever happen completely? I mean, it’s happening in pockets already, but the changes have not been institutionalized. That is, they are FAR from being a “given” yet. What are the incentives for educators to change? In other cases you mention it is often more about money than philosophy.

    @Chris – you should be so proud of your former student. Pandora has been revolutionary in the way they provide music. Was it Tim Westergren who was your student?

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