The Current State of Education Media: An Interview with Charles Sosnik of the MindRocket Media Group

Topics: Education Policy, ESSA

Mary Kenkel interviewed Charles Sosnik, an education journalist, about the current state of education and personalized learning. Guest post by Mary Tighe

Education is full of trends and fads that come and go. But there are some trends that rise above the others, that prove to be successful and have research to show that they are more than a fad. I wanted to learn more about the current state of education and who better to ask for than someone who talks with educators every day, writes articles about current learning movements and bases his current career on covering the education system?

When I started at KnowledgeWorks, Charles Sosnik was heading up SEEN Magazine, where some of my coworkers had published insight into education policy, teaching and learning strategy, and the future of education. I’ve been grateful to get to know Charles and learn from his expertise – expertise gained from almost 10 years in the education media space and nearly 30 years in the media world.

Today, Charles serves as editor in chief for MindRocket Media Group, helping to connect the stories and voices in education that are changing the world. If you haven’t checked out edCircuit yet, you really should.

We recently had a conversation about his thoughts on the education world, current “trends,” personalized education and the future of learning. Here’s what he had to say:

How long have you been working in the education media space?

I’ve been working in media since 1981, but have only been in the education media space since 2008. My media background is varied, working as an editor, publisher or producer for business publications, city magazines, trade publications and regional television.

What drew you to education?

I entered the education media space quite by accident. I had divested myself of a media company and at age 48, I started looking for something to else to do. I was introduced to RB Knight, who published a group of specialty publications, one of which was an education magazine called the Southeast Education Network (SEEN). RB needed an editor, and agreed to let me have a go at it even though I had zero experience in the education biz.

My initial take was that the education market seemed interesting, but I was completely unprepared for the effect that it would have on me. As I began having conversations with educators and education experts in the business, I was overwhelmed by the passion that these individuals had. Through talking to them, I began to understand the importance of what they were doing. I had spent my entire career in media making money, but this was the first time that I really felt like I was contributing, that I was giving something back. I routinely spend 12 or more hours a day working – sometimes upwards of 18 hours. I have the opportunity to talk to superintendents, principals, teachers, technologists and education entrepreneurs. To a person, they have a unique passion for education and a sincere desire to help learners. I have made fast friends, and am constantly inspired by the people I talk to.

As someone in the education media, you see a lot of trends come and go… sometimes quite quickly. What are the biggest trends you see in education right now that you think are here to stay?

I would hesitate to use the word trend, because that implies a rising line on a graph that will easily decline when the next trend arrives. The two biggest movements I see are the move towards student-directed learning, and the move towards a globalization in learning. Both, I believe are necessary and inevitable. Education must and will change with the world around it. A closed ecosystem with teachers as the repositories of knowledge is no longer practical or appropriate for learners.

What do you think about the moves toward personalized learning and competency-based education?

I think the speed at which we personalize learning and integrate a system that insists on competencies will determine our success in the next 25 years – as a nation and as the people who are responsible for preparing our children for success in the world. Education, for all its successes and all its heroes, is a terribly antiquated system. When you compare the world of 100 years ago to the world of today, the only thing that looks remotely the same is our education system. How can we expect an education system like ours to prepare our children for a world like theirs?

KnowledgeWorks, our strategic foresight team looks at the future of learning. What do you think the future of learning looks like?

That is truly the $64 question. I was putting together a special issue of SEEN Magazine a couple years ago with a Future of EdTech theme. I asked a friend of mine, a leading futurist named David Houle, what EdTech would look like in 25 years. David laughed at me and said, “Anything past five or ten years is just locker-room talk.” The only way you can predict the future, and the way that most futurists do it, is to follow trends to their logical conclusions. I would look at the way the world has changed and is changing, taking into account technology and the likely job market 25 – 50 years from now. I would ask “What will our children need to be successful in their lives 25 – 50 years from now,” and then hope like hell we are smart enough to create the environment to help them. There are some very fundamental questions we should be asking now if we are to get it right 25 years into the future. We need to focus more on the needs of our learners than on our own needs. Right now, the primary focus of the institution of education is to protect the needs of the institution itself. That may sound a little cynical or snarky but it doesn’t make it less true.

Interested in more insight from Charles Sosnik? Read his district communication advice.