Disruption for many people generates discomfort, shakes the status quo and breaks routines. We all have an emotional response to this process: for some hesitation, doubt, confusion, fear, anger, bewilderment, and for others excitement, rejuvenation, inspiration, motivation and energizing or a combination of the above.
The Digital Disruption Has Already Happened” image on twitter challenged my own thinking, and as I unpacked this with a group of students we all had to take time to unravel what this meant to us. After a healthy discussion we came to a common understanding that each of these companies generated a “disruption” armed with ideas and models that completely reshape the economic contract of the business world. The disruption challenged a set of expectations, routines and structures, thus redefining what it means to provide a particular service. In the process, the relationship between worker, employer, customer and their social contracts was also redefined. As these models of disruption become part of our economic ecosystem, a whole new paradigm faces us. A good example of this process is featured in this article “The Last Kodak Moment?” (Economist)
As the students and I further discussed what this means to us here in the classroom, we started realizing a distinct disconnect between the objectives and outcomes of our learning in school and the reality that this image represents. There are two worlds working in very different realms with no clear bridge creating a meaningful authentic connection between them. As one student shared after seeing this video in class, “mmm I find it odd that we are not learning how to make these things in school, or understand how they work or maybe fix them.”
Yes, the world around us is changing rapidly, very rapidly, we know this, we are aware of this, we state this, and are impacted by this daily. However, our role is often that of the passive consumer, unconsciously sucked in by the addictive seamless convenience of the services these disruptions deliver. In our passivity and growing dependence we seem willing to sideline a more critical reflection of what this disruption is doing to us. The engines of this disruption: creativity, machine learning, algorithms, and innovation are driving the ecosystems which are quickly becoming non negotiables with our work and social flows. These disruptions are inevitable and not bad or good, they are part of today’s economic narrative that impacts us all locally and globally.
But in the bubble of “school” there is a sense that it is okay not to engage with this concretely, giving ourselves permission to continue focusing on learning objectives and outcomes tied to a past. As Michael Wesch shares in this TedTalk: From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able, what we teach, what we engage as “musts” as part of the learning contract are disconnected from the pressing realities surrounding us. This lack of authentic connection and scaffolding which should provide the skills and cognitive capacity to critically engage with the rapidly changing world are watered down to suit our own educational comfort zone and established routines, which have worked so well for us in the past.
Schools are keen to talk about teaching to students’ future and as George Couros share in his book ” Innovators Mindset”, its all our future and all of us need to understand and engage with it concretely, not just the kids. Education rhetoric is rich with 21 century skills terminology and on the surface we are okay to dabble with some ideas and changes, but not at the level where we truly have taken on a deep understanding as educators about what this disruption is doing to our world and how we can act as concierges of learning. We need to ensure our students are not simply consumers of the disruption but empowered creators and active participants of the disruption.
A disruption needs to occur in schools with professional development. In a video by Frank Barrett in the Harvard Business Review “To Innovate, Disrupt Your Routine” he highlights the importance of leaders ability to engage in a process where routines are disrupted to generate opportunities for creativity. As an example he uses the wonderful analogy of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album and the disruption he facilitated, disrupting routines which had the group enter a discomfort and then supporting them to create something new that changed the face of Jazz.
It is often the case, and I am generalizing here, that professional development in schools is focused on pedagogy framed by comfort zones that generate no disruption, learning framed with limited clear connections to the real world, lecture style delivery, and bulleted PowerPoints squeezed at the end of a long day of work. This dynamic can generate a level of disconnect, cynicism and passivity by participants, and dilutes the connection between what we teach and how we tie learning to be authentic and connected to the pressing realities surrounding us.
School leaders need to first disrupt their own professional development. They also need to be bold and challenge their own comfort zones. Through this act, we then experience first hand the process described by Frank Barrett in the Harvard Business Review, and will be willing to mentor leadership teams and faculty to go through a similar process with explicit support and care. If we are going to lead and disrupt our routines to engage in a process where we innovate and create then educators need time, space, support, empathy, and meaningful scaffolding. With this we build the capacity to disrupt their own thinking and internalize how they can take ownership with the process. We need to disrupt professional development learning outcomes, so as to be able to craft a learning narrative connected to a world driven by a new economic reality; one framed by creativity, algorithms, machine learning and innovation. Through this process we can then facilitate a culture where educators become active participants of the pressing realities surrounding us and lead and mentor learning with authentic and meaningful connections to the world of disruptions we are living in.
We cannot expect to authentically connect our students’ learning environments with the rich tapestry of the world of economic disruptions without giving ourselves permission to disrupt ourselves first and shift our professional learning discourse to unpack, synthesis, connect and craft learning outcomes that explicitly provide meaningful opportunities for us to make sense of constant disruptive change, and from there as concierges of learning, choreograph an authentic learning landscape for students. “Disrupt me!”
In education, we have to stop pretending that
- there is a separation between the digital world and the real world
- all students have an excellent understanding of digital tools and ethics
- technology is a learning outcome and not a tool
- failure and open ended outcomes are bad
- we are not in a state of constant accelerated change
Scott McLeod challenged others to participate in a conversation on how to #makeschooldifferent with the prompt “… we have to stop pretending”. In this challenge, I’d like to invite @pgreensoup @jasonohler @arniebieber @russiazurfluh
I caught a tweet about Reid Wilson’s post with this infographic and it simply jumped out at me. It got me thinking about my own learning. The idea of letting go, being open, okay to mess up, explore, tinker and celebrate being vulnerable and taking advantage of my failures as a learning opportunity. The habits of mind Reid shared resonated with me. The powerful infographic highlights how in today’s rapidly changing world habits of mind are critical in engaging with these changes. Reid Wilson‘s infographic does a wonderful job of challenging educators thinking and push one to reconsider the pedagogic discourse of learning in schools.
The important premise is that these new habits of mind are about educators cognitive capacity to build new frameworks with a significantly different set of behaviors and beliefs connected to a world that is in a constant state of accelerated change.
There are some concrete outside forces which come into play challenging our learning communities. The shifts caused by these outside forces are significant and only highlight the importance of seriously engaging with Reid Wilson‘s premise.
One of the biggest shifts is how the work place, employment and jobs are radically changing due to the adoption of new technologies and more importantly a break from traditional business models. Examples like Air B and B, Uber, the apps market and the rash of start ups fueled by the E-economy are re-framing employment rules in the work place. The dynamics of this shift are nicely broken down in this article: Workers on tap @Economist. A whole generation of students in schools today, are entering a new work place being choreographed by these changes. The social contract of employment we have lived with is being turned upside down.
If tools can be emailed at a click of a button (Nasa emails spanner to space station @BBC) and constructed in the confines of our homes with a 3D printer. How does that shift the dynamic of manufacturing and in tandem the role of design, location, innovation and production. As this develops we are seeing a re-framing of manufacturing, and it will not be about location but innovation, creativity, flexibility and adaptability.
The growing field of machine intelligence and the complex dynamics of the ethical implications are starting to challenge our own moral construct and the relationship between machines and humans. Shivon Zilis shares out an interesting graphic on her blog (the Current State of Machine Intelligence.) that delineates the companies and organizations involved in machine intelligence and the accelerated growth of areas unheard off a few years back. The growing investment tied to the development of machine intelligence coupled with the field of “learning machines” as described by Jeremy Howard’s Tedtalk are ushering a science fiction like future which actually is being constructed today!
These are just a few of the many new shifts changing our world, and being unpacked before our eyes. A term which encapsulates these forces well, is VUCA, an acronym for “volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” initially coined as a military term in the 1990’s and now often shared in the context of companies and organization engaging with a variety of leadership frameworks.
Schools and education leaders are in a unique position to engage, lead and model Reid Wilson‘s construct of the 21 century habits of mind in response to the forces of accelerated change. Education leaders must be risk takers themselves and engage with the responsibility to scaffold, curate and facilitate this new construct that prepares not only our students for a world of “ volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity” but the educators that are in the control room of learning.
Special thank you to Reid Wilson for sharing the graphic. Do make a point of checking out his blog: http://www.wayfaringpath.com/
Words are a powerful vehicle for meaning and understanding, connected to individual or group perspectives, interpretations, and connections. The word “Digital” has been part of our vocabulary landscape for a long time. It was only after reading Nicholas Negroponte’s book, “Being Digital” in 1995, that I began to be aware of the term and its impact on the world to come, but in 2014, the word “digital” has now blended itself into the daily fabric of our lives. When we think of the word “digital”, it creates a sense of disconnect from our world and implies that the digital world is a separate part of our reality. However, this is no longer true. Our lives are so embedded within this digital realm that the two have become inseparable. So, I invite us to use a new set of vocabularies to frame this paradigm: Appliances, Utilities, Information Flows, Ethics and Algorithms.
Appliances are the consumables that we connect and interact with (laptops, phones, tablets, GPS, and other hardware). These tools have become the default to our connectedness; disposable and with each new version more seamless, simple and integrated.
Utilities frame our day to day interactions. These social medias, networks, email, RSS, professional learning networks and Web 2.0/ 3.0 tools have become the architectural framework of communication and information for our connected world.
Information flows are the 150,000,000 Blogs posted a year, 5 million tweets per day, 200,000 videos uploaded on YouTube daily, and the petabytes of information created, aggregated, shared, and circulated daily around the earth.
Ethics is the why, how, when, where and who of our digital footprint in today’s world. It is the wide ranging issues from Killer Robots to the impact of a Filter Bubble (where search, news, and information algorithms choreograph what information types we get based on our personal browsing habits). The curation of our online and offline privacy as governments, corporations, and organizations juggle a treasure trove of information created by our respective digital footprints, is the new ethical dilemma we all deal with, as individuals, groups and as societies at large.
Algorithms are the backbone to the intelligent softwares that inhabit the engine of the internet. These are predictive, anticipatory, intelligent and analytical. The are the lifeblood of the internet ecosystems for individuals, governments, corporations, and organizations which then create, develop, build, facilitate, monitor, analyze, synthesize and evaluate our day to day interactions. The algorithms have become the life line to the information flows, ethics, utilities and appliances.
These words are not the definitive list, but reflect a vocabulary we use both from our past and present. They highlight how the “digital” world is ingrained in our daily lives, to the point we often are not even conscious of its presence. This connectedness fueled by our devices and ecosystems now are part of the fabric of our lives, often out of our control, and a non negotiable aspect of our own participation with the day.
A critical understanding of these words and their respective dynamics should be an essential ingredient in School and Organizational curricula. We can no longer think of them as separate entities. We have inherited this reality which now has us connected in ways where opting out becomes the abnormality . These Appliances, Utilities, Information Flows, Ethics and Algorithms are part of the fabric of our world and impact us as humans both consciously and unconsciously.
This discourse needs be given equal time in all educational settings; imbedded as seamlessly in the curriculum as they are in our lives. A responsibility to highlight the power, richness and cautions that come with tying ourselves to a set of appliances, utilities, information flows, ethics and algorithms that have and will continue to change the fabric of our interactions as humans and organizations.
So how do we do this? The key is that these terms and their meanings are introduced as part of the learning landscape in all units of study. Creating authentic connections between these words and the learning environment will then scaffold a clearer understanding of their real world applications. In our school ecosystems most subjects and curricular areas are using technology, often as a separate tool, or as a side show, but, if it is so seamless and embedded in our day to day lives, then we need to translate this into our learning. One of the first steps is to give ourselves permission to change the way we work with this vocabulary. As we change the vocabulary, and with it the meaning and role of these words, we are engaging in an active learning process connected to the changing world.
To ignore this vocabulary is to short change future generations of their awareness of a world that has become more invisible, seamless and blended both in our conscious and unconscious day. The death of “digital” is here.