Sunday, April 29, 2012

Well, damn, it's been a really long time since I've written anything here.  Not for lack of things to say.  But, more, a lack of, well, writing anything here in a long time.

Instead of trying to catch up, I'll just start with where I am and, if anything relevant happened in the last 5 months, it'll come up and I'll catch up.

On the teaching front, I've agreed to teach an on-line class this summer.  My thinking is that on-line teaching is here to stay but that it's unlikely to be here in this form (I'm thinking of the first cell (that is, 'mobile') phones that were super clunky but have transformed to what we now have) and I'm interested in possibly being ahead of the curve here.  Also, I think this is probably a pretty good way to get myself thinking about teaching — since I won't be able to fall back on habits, having not cultivated any in this area yet.  And, lastly, if I'm going to move into teaching & learning stuff, I probably should be able to help folks with teaching in all its incarnations.

The one thing I'm really sure of is that on-line teaching can't just be what we do in the classroom but on-line.  And, the more I've thought about it (and talked to some folks), I'm starting to think that on-line teaching may be less about the whole class and more about the individuals in the class (or smaller groups in the class).  Which brings me to....

What I've been reading and how my summer is shaping up.  I've just started Clayton Christensen's Disrupting Class (it's co-authored by two other folks whose names I can't remember — Christensen also wrote The Innovator's Dilemma which I'm also reading and that's why I know his name and not the other authors).  Loving the book (and, thus, want to be Clay's friend— yes, I think I can call him Clay).

In brief, the Christensen's point is that in any industry (whether cell phones or education), most developments go to improving upon what already exists since doing this helps to make clients happy and, ideally, take clients from competitors.  And, it's more cost effective to do this than to shift gears and start something that is moderately new (read: innovative).   The improvements that are typical are, he labels them, sustaining as opposed to disruptive.  BUT, it's the disruptive change that really changes things.  There's a point at which things get (and these are my words) as good as they are going to get and it's a new direction that's needed.  But, going in a new direction rarely makes sense if you're trying to keep your current clients.

This notion of disruptive change is one that I talk about a good deal (without knowing it) in my classes when I emphasize the fact that the big players in any conversation are not the people are really good at recognizing other people's errors, it's the folks who realize that maybe a different question needs to be asked.  Looking at the history of moral epistemology and the influence Rawls had.  It wasn't that Rawls  had an amazing answer to an old question, it's that he came up with a new question to address an old problem (a question that circumvented the dead-end folks were running into with the question that was being asked).

How, then is this relevant to education?  Of course, I'm not finished with the book yet, but what I've gotten this far is that we need to find the 'disruptive' change.  I keep thinking about Pinterest (bear with me here).  The story I've heard about Pinterest is that the folks who developed it asked themselves what we'd do with the internet if it was just handed to us as it is now, having not developed things along the way as the internet was developing.  And, well, Pinterest is what they came up with.

So, some of my questions are what, within the general neighborhood of what education can do, should we be doing, for whom and, then, how?  And, I am reminded of one of the puzzles of education.  We know that people learn best when they are met where they are but it's virtually impossible for a teacher to do this when working with a classroom of students.  But (and Christensen et al seem to have reached this same conclusion) maybe we can do this if we rethink the structures and tools of education.

Well, I have work to do.  I'll get back to this later.

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