In early June, I read Clayton Christensen's book, "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. " Briefly, I believe it's the right book at the right time. Computer-based learning and online learning are slowly, but steadily growing towards a tipping point. To date, I've penned seven blogs about the topic and I'd love your comments.

Disruptive Innovation vs. Education



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Below is part 8 of my series.

The War from Within

The revolution may not be televised, but it most certainly will be fought within blogs and opinion pages over the next generation. Once computer-based learning (CBL) and online learning reach critical mass within our schools, Christensen, in his book “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns,” predicts the next phase will be the move to Student-Centric Learning. This is the point where teachers begin to change from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.” Christensen’s reasoning is that CBL will do much of the heavy lifting since it will be able to take-on the role of “sage” while adapting to each student’s learning style. The role of teacher, then, will be to facilitate learning and to manage each student’s individualized learning plan. This is where the revolution will take place and great wars will be fought. It won’t be the first time that the student-centric model has been criticized, but this time, with the foundation of CBL already in place, perhaps the debate will be a bit more civilized. Perhaps.

In the meantime, we should turn to the debate.

First Person: School facilitators flunk the test, is an opinion piece published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In it, retired teacher, Fred Strine, connects educational failure and student misbehavior with the move to student-centered learning. “Ban facilitators, the word and all its forms, and put on probation anyone caught in a classroom still claiming to be one,” he writes, and “Re-establish the traditional teacher-centered classroom…”.

"Education requires discipline, both intellectual and behavioral, and discipline must be imposed before it becomes engrained."

"...student-centered learning allows the inexperienced and the undisciplined to become the standard. Who then is the model for students when today’s teachers merely facilitate as “guides on the side,” leaving students to discover on their own?"

Strine’s last phrase, “leaving students to discover on their own” is at the core of his argument. However, in Christensen’s CBL world, the “sage on the stage” still exists in the form of a computer-based or online-based model. In it, the program or online course is leading the instruction based on that particular student’s educational needs.

Take, for instance, what happens to teaching when teachers use pacing guides which require all teachers to be on the same page at the same time. If standard 1.3 must be mastered before 1.4 can be understood, but the pacing guide says you have to teach standard 1.4 today, what happens to students who don’t yet understand standard 1.3? While I totally agree with Strine’s remark, “Most real learning requires real work,” the teacher-centric model we’ve built bypasses students at the sake of timing. With computer-based and online-based learning, though, each student is constantly assessed regarding their knowledge of the standards and they only move on when they can demonstrate their mastery. The student-centric learning model outlined by Christensen is one where students still must study and master the curriculum outlined by the state. However, in it, teachers have the flexibility to intervene. His vision of “facilitator” is one where teachers are actively engaged in helping students master the standards.

I appreciate Fred Strine’s honesty and his words. However, if education is to change to ensure all students can master the standards, we will need many more Mr. Strines to step up to the plate. A civil discourse would benefit all of us.

I haven't had the time yet to read your series but look forward to it.

I just finished Disrupting Class -- recommended by a few sterling educators I met HERE!

I really passionately believe in its core message that those who are very committed to democratic and egalitarian principles of education, those committed to highest order of teaching "process" and not "content" , those who see learning as epistemologically personal -- need to push the bubble more regarding the role/use and focus of technology in learning.

I got lost, I must admit, in Christensen's often tedious business model arguements, graphs and anecdotes about the commercial side of things. I did like his "stories" that thread through the book and bring a practical vein to the debate. I also very much liked this last chapter and wish he' d of started with this at first. Concise and to the point.

The need and power of student centric learning is mind boggling to those with foresight and especially those who've been in any disadvantaged environment. I teach in EFL, around the world and technology, the use of computers to foster both human connection and quick, tireless learning on demand is incredible. I design "bots" which people can talk to for practice. I make flash and topical activities BUT..................... the hurdles remain.

What are these hurdles?

Well I'd like a discussion about how we can both lower the barriers caused by IP (intellectual property rights). [as an aside, great recent speech by 2 noble laureates detailing how destructive copyright is!] and also make technology more accessible?

Hector Ruiz's speech at Davos really highlighted how technology can help education a million fold. Here is his TED speech. But I'd also focus on two other issues. How can we get real leadership to "disrupt"? I'm really dissatisfied with all the bloggers cum spokespeople for education who preach for the choir and the tech magazines but who don't stir up enough to get the fire burning. THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Yet they get their conference fees and keep busy by promoting one application and the next yet NEVER have I heard the right voice speaking to the people and enacting change.

that's the problem. We need better communicators. If explained well, everyone and teachers included will buy into the student centric model. Otherwise it will happen but down the road , down the road.....

I'll also add for anyone interested, my own presentation and vision on the future of learning.

Cheers and I'll comment more specifically when I read your blog!




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