Preventing disruptive technologies from disrupting education | Opensource.com

Preventing disruptive technologies from disrupting education

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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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About the author

Sebastian Dziallas - 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).