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Disruptive Teaching and Learning

stop, or don't!

I am usually not one to ruminate on and on about information I get at work. Many schools are run like a business, and being on the IT side of things, you get exposed to a lot of the business-y cross-talk and things that don’t necessarily relate to the world of education on the surface. In higher-ed, the two worlds are closer together as we need to prepare our students for the business world and to compete in an economy that ain’t what it used to be. But when you look at K-12, the dissociation between the business world and the world of schools seems much further apart. Or is this changing?

I was handed a white paper recently from IBM recently that echoed a lot of the ideas put forth in our recent readings on 21st century education:

Global CEO Study: IBM White paper exec. summary (register for full version)

Learning for the 21st Century by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

These two documents are fairly aligned, given the differing focus, but the IBM paper struck me as being very relevant to education. With the emphasis being placed on technology in schools, isn’t our main goal to train students, regardless of age, to be productive, successful, and even innovative in the swelling knowledge economy? Of course the 21st Century Skills is something we’ve seen before…a call to place teaching and learning in the arena of technology to prepare students for jobs that don’t even exist yet, but what does big business actually have to say about it?

Quite a lot really…from the Executive Summary of IBM’s 2008 Global CEO Study:

Hungry for Change: The Enterprise of the Future is capable of changing quickly and successfully. Instead of merely responding to trends, it shapes and leads them. Market and industry shifts are a chance to move ahead of the competition.

Innovative Beyond Customer Imagination: The Enterprise of the Future surpasses the expectations of increasingly demanding customers. Deep collaborative relationships allow it to surprise customers with innovations that make both its customers and its own business more successful.

Globally Integrated: The Enterprise of the Future is integrating to take advantage of today’s global economy. Its business is strategically designed to access the best capabilities, knowledge and assets from wherever they reside in the world and apply them wherever required in the world.

Disruptive By Nature: The Enterprise of the Future radically challenges its business model, disrupting the basis of competition. It shifts the value proposition, overturns traditional delivery approaches and, as soon as opportunities arise, reinvents itself and its entire industry.

Genuine, Not Just Generous: The Enterprise of the Future goes beyond philanthropy and compliance and reflects genuine concern for society in all actions and decisions.

Let’s substitute the word “Student” for “Enterprise of the Future.” Interesting read there, huh? Students today are Hungry for Change. Of course! The are infinitely adaptable to their environment and seek to manipulate it any way they can. Change stimulates and challenges them toward achieving a new mastery and then they eagerly move on to the next thing. Boredom kills a curriculum! They are innovative beyond imagination when given the chance. Students today are resourceful and are the masters of all the new skills: mashing up, remixing, recontextualizing, and finally synthesizing! We need to meet them halfway! The are Globally Integrated and aware. The internet connects everything together and to borrow a page from Friedman’s The World is Flat mantra, they have grown up with this assumption that it was never a disconnected place. We need to utilize this openness as fertile ground for encouraging learning and growth, to teach them how to make new connections and captialize on the “known” ones. And of course we are trying to be Disruptive by Nature! Other than sounding fun, disruption in the positive sense is challenging the known variables, and looking for new solutions…even when the problems haven’t been acknowledged yet. There isn’t anything we can’t at least try to do better, whether it is finding a new route to work or re-telling a story digitally. Finally, they are Genuine, Not Just Generous. I truly believe today’s students are not completely “in it to win it” (unlike the 90’s when everyone in my classes wanted to have an internet start-up). Global concern about human rights and the environment are even closer to home now that we are seeing the effects of global events and politics up close and personal.

We need to work with our students to learn how to critically observe these events and participate to bring about real change. Just because our generation has messed up doesn’t mean they have to also! They are growing up more aware of global issues than any other generation previously, and as educators we need to be ready to swallow our pride as adults who are “new to this” and meet students on their turf, in a rapidly-changing world that will most likely keep changing faster than they would like it to, but are up for any challenge being the social-technical-global citizens that they are.

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