Have We Been Banging our Heads Against the Desk for Nothing?

Repeatedly, originally uploaded by OsakaBen.

This summer I am working on getting through my list of books to read. It’s a good thing that my summer has been extended because I was way behind. Fortunately I was in the middle of Disrupting Class by Christenson, Horn and Johnson when I saw Scott McLeod’s presentation at NECC. Scott’s presentation got my into the spirit and the book really pushed my thinking on the role of technology in education. For years I have promoted the integration of technology into the classroom while the authors of Disrupting Class are now telling me that, “Teachers have implemented computers in the most common-sense way- to sustain their existing practices and pedogogies rather than displace them.” and that the real disruption will be with software-delivered instruction. There’s even a section entitled, “Cramming Computers in Schools”.

Sure, I’ve complained that too many educators “don’t get it”, “that it’s not happening fast enough, that the majority of uses of technology in the classroom is lame, and that we have to keep pushing this change in instructional tools. What has kept me going is that I have witnessed classrooms where the tools are making a difference in student learning. My vision for schools was soundly based on the integration model and I truly believed that progress was essential and possible.

Christensen, Horn and Johnson are now laying out a new paradigm that is forcing me to step outside my comfort zone. They describe an educational system where…

  • the classrooms are virtual and students are guided by software that is tailored to learning styles.
  • the feedback to students will be immediate and they will not move ahead unless they have mastered the topic.
  • the pace will be determined by the student’s needs
  • the role of teachers will be to coach their students (many more students) during the various stages of learning.
  • schools are organized, not geographically, but by students’ individual learning styles.

Can this really be true? Are companies like leArnin3.com and ALEKS on the cutting edge? Do I need to stop chanting the integration model mantra and start plugging software options?

I am going to seriously begin looking at how I can use their suggestions for school leaders.

“Use the right tools to introduce change….negotiation toward radical change simply won’t work.”

“Solve it (problems) by facilitating disruption.”

“each school should have one person – whose sole job is to implement online courses.”

“Don’t place artificial limits on what students can take online or what teachers can build online either…”

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