Machiavelli on Transforming Education

EdTech Futures is committed to the view that EdTech can play a major role in the transformation of education. The dominant one-size model of education inherited from the industrial age fails too many people, and threatens to fail millions more as we move futher into the 21st century.

The problem is that while the Victorian education system was designed to educate millions, it was was never designed to adapt to the individual needs of millions of people.    This is where EdTech fits in.  EdTech offers the potential to provide personalised learning at massive scale.  More than that, it offers the potential to rethink education altogether.  EdTech shouldn’t be just about using technology to do the same things more efficiently; the exciting potential of EdTech is around transforming education so that it becomes possible to do things that were never previously possible.

This is exciting and, in my view, really should excite educationalists the world over.  But changing the system does not always appeal to those who are doing well in the current system.    The reality is that what looks like an opportunity to one group of people can feel like a threat to others.   Securing change is a complex challenge and many great ideas can fail because they fail to garner the stakeholder buy-in necessary to make them a success.   This is as much a political challenge as an EdTech challenge.   But it’s a very real challenge for those of us enthused by the disruptive potential of EdTech.

Machiavelli scopes the dimensions of the challenge in following passage from The Prince, and I think it’s worth sharing so that no one is under any illusions about the challenges of transforming education for good.

And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult

to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its

success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order

of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who

have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders

in those who have the laws on their side, and partly from the

incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until

they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that

whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack, they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such ways that the Prince is endangered along with them.

Niccolo Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’, 1514

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