Your Art Is a Gift -- Seth Godin

"You are not doing favors for people -- you are giving them gifts." Thus said Super Marketing Man Seth Godin, one of my heroes, at the EDUCAUSE education technology conference in Philadelphia this week. Godin seemed to turn the notion of quid pro quo completely on its head.

EDUCAUSE is the annual Woodstock for education and institutions quickly moving to an online model to reach more students. Over a million people study through online courses with their affordability, access anywhere, and ever increasing academic quality. For me, Godin is the best educator. His book The Dip gave me new perspective on startups, my own public affairs work in Washington with its cyclical nature and "when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, and when to walk away" (Kenny Rogers). In my son's Marketing and Entrepreneurship class taught by Ms. Shelley Gaffin, the book Purple Cow is required reading. You see, anybody can make a Holstein, a black Angus, etc., according to Godin, but a Purple Cow is something. Other great books by Godin are Meatball Sundae and his original breakthrough book -- my Bible -- Permission Marketing.

The session at the conference was sponsored by Pearson, another company that takes risks, having started in the railroad business, moving through history to the publishing world, and now offering its texts online through a learning management system. We'll get to Pearson's move to unlock its education offerings in just a moment. Pearson also distributed Godin's latest work: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

"We (in education) stand as leaders, so you must lead and not manage," he exhorted. "People want to go somewhere; you may not know how to get there, but you can help them. Together."

"The whole idea is to not expect something in return after you come from the golf course," said the author. "How many people want what you have -- your leverage. You don't have a job, you have a platform. A platform to fail, to make connections, to have a chance of a lifetime. Make ART, make connections, do work that matters." Therefore, your Art is Your Gift.

The question is, for all of us in the recession or in our mid-career life, when you come home from work, can you tell them (students, your family) you made a difference, he asked. "Tell unbelievable stories about things that fell apart and how you made changes."

People who will win in this new economy are the ones who bring passion -- for the world to be different. By making connections, we begin to lead. "Ask the people who have the passion to put the time and money in. You can tell them how," Godin encouraged. Certain people are not as motivated as others, so Godin asked educators what they can do to reach them. The central story of Linchpin (and I have just gotten my signed copy because I have a man crush on Godin) is that people including teachers need to figure out how to reach others when there is no rule book.

"I have never met somebody who has never told a joke, had a new idea or thought of a new innovation. I have not met people who are completely normal. Every three-year-old can tell joke or paint a painting. Then we start brainwashing them," in K-12 educational systems, warned Godin. "But we genetically know how to do it (paint). Don't make someone think they cannot be original."

Godin relayed that 700 million people are using Facebook for free: "What if you use this connection around ideas. Learning doesn't have to get them in a car, going out somewhere. Yes, we still need face to face. There are conferences to have experiences. But you can be online," said Godin, and learn.

Pearson has taken a page from that script. "I don't think the world is one way or the other," said Don Kilburn, who is Vice Chairman of Higher Education at Pearson out of Boston. "The next wave is going to be open source, shared data. Collaborating faculty and education is moving the needle."

Pearson does not intend for its books, interactive materials or educational text to be a "closed box by any means." What that means for the publishing giant, the largest purveyor of ed materials, is that it must really allow sharing of what was once proprietary published content.

"We fully intend, and our real strategy is, to move from books to content distribution and to added technology services," he said, for university and secondary education customers. "The power of this integration will cause some dip in our front-end earlier model of publishing" (and there is that Godin-esque "Dip" word again). Pearson says its learning management system is the premier online ed distribution system in the world. It welcomes user generated content.

The market, or at least competitors exhibiting their own closed and open source LMS systems on the EDUCAUSE show floor, claimed Pearson's content system would create a closed loop to monopolize its own market. Don says, on the contrary, "we will carry McGraw-Hill books when it makes sense and the professor wants it up. Pearson will be open source and all of the published works can co-exist."

It may mean Pearson will be less about Gutenberg and more about technology services and consulting!

Godin continued: "Ideas spread and education is going to happen digitally. It has to scale and some of it will be free." He predicted that we will, as students or adult learners, all become ARTISTS and they (teachers) don't have to provide standard training. Today, social media can create artists and Godin asked the crowd "what tends to make an artist. They have experience and community. It is not about credit hours -- let us allow it to happen."

"Online education is going to transform higher ed," said Godin. "We don't want to say just take this course and put it online. That is never the right way. What parts do we amplify and what do we throw away." Godin also encouraged the education analysts like Dr. Phil Ice at American Public University System to make sure to help students in the online learning process -- to provide online support and real student-teacher interaction. Ice is sharing data from a new predictive analytics study next week at the WCET conference and a focus on student outcomes partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"If you get stuck, someone can help you get unstuck." Godin said. "Other students, a professor, and you need that part -- you cannot leave it out (of online learning). The future and the group working together is 90 percent and only 10 percent is about a lecture. It is collaborative."

Future of online interaction is -- people need to actually learn something. Create projects and teams. Everyone owns the factory now. "You cannot go traditional (higher ed) and have a building for each one of the schools -- and there is a 400-year-old Harvard model that doesn't match anymore," said Godin. "Kids have Facebook friends long before they go to school -- they already build their network before they show up on campus." He asked, "So why does a physical institution need to be in a place?"

More Godin: " It will be painful (to change higher ed) and there will be some casualties, but people have to participate" in their own futures.