Accident or not, Steve Yegge’s Google+ Rant is public. On the surface it is about management, development and architecture of a customer/user platform. But this gem of a statement goes beyond that: (Emphasis mine)
I’m not really sure how Bezos came to this realization — the insight that he can’t build one product and have it be right for everyone. But it doesn’t matter, because he gets it. There’s actually a formal name for this phenomenon. It’s called Accessibility, and it’s the most important thing in the computing world.
The. Most. Important. Thing.
If you’re sorta thinking, “huh? You mean like, blind and deaf people Accessibility?” then you’re not alone, because I’ve come to understand that there are lots and LOTS of people just like you: people for whom this idea does not have the right Accessibility, so it hasn’t been able to get through to you yet. It’s not your fault for not understanding, any more than it would be your fault for being blind or deaf or motion-restricted or living with any other disability. When software — or idea-ware for that matter — fails to be accessible to anyone for any reason, it is the fault of the software or of the messaging of the idea. It is an Accessibility failure.
Like anything else big and important in life, Accessibility has an evil twin who, jilted by the unbalanced affection displayed by their parents in their youth, has grown into an equally powerful Arch-Nemesis (yes, there’s more than one nemesis to accessibility) named Security. And boy howdy are the two ever at odds.
But I’ll argue that Accessibility is actually more important than Security because dialing Accessibility to zero means you have no product at all, whereas dialing Security to zero can still get you a reasonably successful product such as the Playstation Network.
How does this relate to Education?
I’ll get the second idea, security, out of the way first, then look at the real point of this post. Filters are an Arch-Nemesis of Accessibility. It is critical to keep students safe, but the pendulum has swung too far on the side of safety and security. You want students to be safe? TEACH them to be safe! Spend time on it, value it. Allow students to learn from mistakes rather than force them to hide their mistakes from you because they were using social software behind your back and now they can’t talk to you about the trouble they are in.
Now on to the idea of Accessibility:
The. Most. Important. Thing.
How accessible are our schools for every student?
What do we do to make learning opportunities more accessible?
Are tools, resources and expertise to support struggling students easily accessible?
Something I’ve been dealing with recently: How do we make non-traditional choices such as online courses and independent study credits more accessible choices?
Is your LMS – Learning Management System accessible to students? Is it easily accessible to teachers? Are we providing enough support for teachers to be successfully using our LMS’s in a meaningful way, or are these management systems just an added layer of complexity?
Is the great tech tool you shared with teachers easily accessible? How big is the learning curve and who is there to support teachers on that curve?
Are multiple ways for students to demonstrate their learning accessible?
Do we make what we do, how we do it, and why we do it accessible information for parents and for our community?
Do the messages we convey about schools and education help make opportunities more accessible for our students? For our teachers?
One more noticeable thing about Steve’s rant is that it unintentionally says something about the importance of transparency. Steve could have made this about “Google sucks”, but his love for Google was not lost. He was unsatisfied with the status quo and he shared something valuable beyond just a rant. Whether it came out accidently or not, Google has reacted by being responsive to the criticism (or rather feedback).
Currently, I can not stand the “Education is Broken” mantra I’ve been hearing. It does not serve us. Education is transforming, not broken. We have some accessibility issues to work out. And, I’m beginning to see a lot of transparency in what educators do… a lot of open sharing that highlights areas of strength and areas that need improving.
I have yet to find an occupation with more dedicated, hard-working employees than in edcuation. Yet the underlying message educators get is ‘you aren’t doing a good enough job’. Really? I think ACCESSIBILITY just might be the biggest issue education faces. We are confronting accessibility failure. At the root of it we have teachers trying to hit a moving target of ‘what a student needs to know when they graduate’… A target that has moved more in the last 20 years than it has in the hundred-and-twenty before it… A target that isn’t even fully agreed upon… A target that can’t be aimed at out of school structures that educators have been put into… A target that teacher training doesn’t fully prepare them to aim for… A target that keeps getting new things added to it, making the target harder to hit.
To paraphrase Steve: When idea-ware fails to be accessible to anyone for any reason, it is the fault of the messaging of the idea.
As we transform education, let’s not promote accessibility failure in our attempt to share new ideas, let’s make sure our messaging makes things more accessible!