Preventing disruptive technologies from disrupting education | Opensource.com

Preventing disruptive technologies from disrupting education

Posted 06 Jul 2011 by 

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When I first got the chance to meet Greg DeKoenigsberg in person three years ago at a conference in Brussels, he mentioned a book as part of a talk he was giving: Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen. And that book helped me define what it's really all about: How can we change education using technology? One of the talks at the EduComm conference in Orlando, FL focused on why and how some technologies fail to disrupt education. 

Education should be more than a factory. And parts of it desperately need change. Some people are quick to shout out buzzwords in response to this call for change. In fact, there's a long list of technologies that are already disrupting education right now. I'd like to go ahead and pick out a couple of them. 

Games. Both before and since Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken, games have played an increasingly important role in disrupting education. They provide students with rewards and incentives. The feeling of having completed an important mission in a game (that encourages learning) feels much more satisfying than reading the next three textbook chapters.

Google. Google is everywhere. Even in education. Google and wide access to the Internet changed the way students operate and learn. There is, however, a statement I heard at the conference that I
disagree with:

"You should never have a question on your test that the student can Google the answer to. Because they'll do it!"

So what? What are you going to do in your job after you graduate? Look up the solution to a real world problem in the back of the textbook because you don't know it? Certainly not. You'll go and find a way to figure it out. And if our students learn an intelligent way of doing exactly that--finding these ways to more quickly and accurately answer their questions--that's much better than it could be.

What are the biggest mistakes when it comes to implementing new disruptive technology? Do too many people form slow-moving committees or plan in isolation without communicating properly? Maybe in the end, it's a lack of student involvement.

Realistically, it's probably all of it. Students need to be involved in innovation. And that's not usually happening through a slowly working committee. There's a need for an agile, open community that articulates needs and goals.

I'd like to end this article on a somewhat sad note. I recall a slide pointing out developments that won't be disruptive to education. Open source was listed as one of them.

Why? This was the answer I heard:

"Because it's a free operating system. It doesn't change the way we [teachers] do things."

Fellow readers, what do you think? Do we need to define the open source way as more than simply software? How? Is open source disruptive--or was that slide right? Is there an advantage to being disruptive and, if so, what is it? 

Add your thoughts--and discuss--in the comments below.

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6 Comments

honeymak
Open Enthusiast

human were not taught to be disrupted
>.^
that's the major reason why human resist in changes
because they were not taught to be changed
we were taught to be stabilized

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Professor64

Regarding your question, "Do we need to define the open source way as more than simply software?" perhaps the the definition is critical. When I think of "open source," I think of software whose source code is available. In my case, I don't think the classes I taught were affected much by which operating system was on the students' computers, whether they used Word or Open/Libre Writer, Linux, Mac, or Windows, etc. Nope, not disruptive.

OTOH, the ability of a student to thumb a text while the phone was under her/his armpit was disruptive and we asked them to silence their phones and put them where they couldn't see them.

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Professor64

Regarding your question, "Do we need to define the open source way as more than simply software?" perhaps the the definition is critical. When I think of "open source," I think of software whose source code is available. In my case, I don't think the classes I taught were affected much by which operating system was on the students' computers, whether they used Word or Open/Libre Writer, Linux, Mac, or Windows, etc. Nope, not disruptive.

OTOH, the ability of a student to thumb a text while the phone was under her/his armpit was disruptive and we asked them to silence their phones and put them where they couldn't see them.

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BKRS

Well, well, well, look at that, the world has changed and the education system can't keep up.
Education is inherently conservative. Sometimes it takes more time to catch up with reality because we need teachers who grew up among the new ideas to reform the old system and make it work in the new environment.
Look at online games: kids are willing to do hours of boring farming for results. Look at the popularity of FaceBook games. 20 years from now there will come a college student with the bright idea how to turn it into a free educational system. Today's distraction is always the future's educational tool and motivation for students.
Pulp fiction changed the stile how text books are written. Look at a 100 years old textbook, and notice the length of sentences and the complex structures they use.
More and more pictures, and - horribile dictu - even color pictures appeared in the text books.
Educational software started to appear. colleges have online classes, and even regular classes have the students make online assignments.
Everything that is disruptive can and eventually will be turned into "bait and switch" to make students learn more. Of course the transition is mostly a disaster. The system of education is bureaucratic, changing it will demand a lot of effort and time.

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Unidentified

1. The issue is not necessarily the disruptive element, but the lack of attention span. The complex sentence structures of Alice in Wondereland is part of its charm, and creates additional levels of complexity in the use of language.

2. Another problem is the non-authoritative nature of social media, such as wikipedia. However, the counterpoint is its accessibility and speed.

3. It seems sensible to foster critical appraisal of social information to enable proper analysis and to foster high attention span, if history is not to founder in misinformation. I don't think open source can assist there, other than fostering it as a philosophy rather than a tool.

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ProfessorA

The author's comment about Google is not well considered. Even if everything were somewhere on the net, in order to think, organize, deduce, etc., one actually has to know some things and know that other things exist. Second despite the speed of searching these days going to look for something takes time and picking the worthwhile hits from the rubbish takes knowledge,

I also don't see the reason for the emphasis on disruptive. Teaching is difficult because it requires getting human beings to do things and change. It is inherently disruptive all by itself. Education needs to be somewhat conservative because what you do as a teacher may affect your students for the rest of their lives. Finding appropriate and effective uses of technology in education is hard work.

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Sebastian Dziallas is Events Coordinator for the Teaching Open Source initiative and lead Fedora packager for Etherpad, a browser-based realtime collaborative text editor. He travels internationally to speak at and organize education tracks at FOSS conferences such as OSCON, LinuxTag, and LinuxCon as well as open source tracks at academic conferences such as SIGCSE (CS education) and FIE (engineering education).

Prior to this, Sebastian was the founder of Fedora's Education SIG and

What is open education?

Hacking computer science education at Khan Academy