Disruptions in the Way We Learn


Recently, I attended The Alliance for Excellence in Online Education Fall 2012 Symposium. This annual conference is dedicated to best practices in online learning for K-12, higher education, and the business community.

One of the major themes that came out of the symposium was the reality that the use of learning technology is growing rapidly in both the private and public sectors. This fact is accompanied by the inherent complexities associated with interactive learning.

As I listened to the speakers and presentations, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of frustration that these changes aren’t happening faster. But along with these feelings came the real-world knowledge that fundamental changes in education comes slowly and often with great pain.

The overriding feeling that I had was that we are still in a consumer-driven mindset when it comes to education. Ever since we were in kindergarten, we came into a classroom, sat down, and were fed information that we were supposed to remember. That is what generations have been used to, but now it just isn’t good enough anymore.

The creative use of technology could be a great tool for breaking this cycle of consumption, but it will come at a great price — shaking apart the institutions we’ve been supporting for over 200 years.

One of the books that was referenced in the conference was “Disrupting Class” by Clayton Christensen. In his book, Christensen eludes to our need for a systematic shift in the way that K-12 students learn. It’s a shift from just consuming facts and figures into engaging and interacting with the learning process.

As I read his book, I came across a list he created as his “Hope for Schools,” which should really be the aspirations for our businesses, our communities, and us as well:

  1. “Maximize human potential
  2. Facilitate a vibrant, participative democracy in which we have an informed electorate that is not capable of being ‘spun’ by self-interested leaders
  3. Have the skills, capabilities, and attitudes that will help our economy remain prosperous and economically competitive
  4. Nurture the understanding that people can see things differently — and that those differences merit respect rather than persecution.”

Testify, Mr. Christensen, testify.