Sunday, June 23, 2013

Adopting a Digital Disruptor Mindset to Transform Education

“When people adopt technology, they do old things in new ways. When people internalize technology, they find new things to do.” James McQuivey, Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation
When it comes to engaging in innovation with technology, the mindset we take toward technology is extremely important. We can either take a "technology adopter" mindset or we can take a "digital disruptor" mindset. As James McQuivey states in his book, Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation, "Digital disruptors think about opportunity differently." To the technology adopter it's always about the technology. How can I use the technology to help me do the things I currently do better? In contrast, a person with a "digital disruptor" mindset sees the technology as the means to engage in entirely new and different possibilities. Which leads me to ask the question:  Which mindset  predominately drives technology policy in your school or district? Is it a "technology adopter" mindset  or a "Digital Disruptor" mindset?

In case you're wondering, here's some characteristics of each.

Educators with the "technology adopter" mindset:
  • Immediately view a new technological device as a means to do what they have been doing, better. This type of thinking limits the view of technology as only being able to enable teaching and learning as we have been doing it under a 20th century, industrial-age school model. Some examples of this kind of thinking is using e-texts to simply replace physical textbooks. There is no change in pedagogy, just a change in how the information is delivered. Another example of this thinking would be viewing the computer as simply a more efficient means to deliver a multiple-choice test. The power of digital lies in its ability to complete reinvent assessment, not perpetuate the old.
  • See technology’s potential limited by current practice. In other words, technology adopter-educators see only their current teaching practice and are not open to any other. "It's worked for hundreds of years, so why change?" is the attitude. Technology then becomes the means to deli ver what is seen as time-honored traditional forms of teaching and learning, such as lecture or heavy use of textbooks. Technology will never be used innovatively when educators limit it's potential to their current understanding of educational practice.
The opposite to the "technology adopter" mindset is the "digital disruptor" mindset. Those in education who adopt this mindset become:
  • Educators who imagine new ways of doing things. Armed with new technology, they use the capabilities of those technologies to reinvent teaching and learning. These educators have been trying to do that with new online learning environments, new instructional models such as PBL and maker-based classrooms. This mindset views technology as a way to completely reinvent how we teach kids. For example, we don't just purchase e-reader devices and e-books. We ask questions that leading the use of these to transform our instruction and student learning.
  • Educators who see the unlimited potential of technology to disrupt current education practice. Education is a system that is stubborn and resists efforts of transformation. That's why seeing technology's potential as a "disruptive" influence is often times viewed as a negative. Cell phone and social media bans are good examples of that. Yet, if we adopt the view of technology as and opportunity to disrupt, to turn upside-down what we do in schools, we have the potential to transform education into a system that meets the needs of every child.
  • Educators open-minded and willing to let go of the old when it fails. This is a tough one for many in and outside of education. It's as if for every step forward in reforming education, we move three steps backward because of a nostalgic view many hold toward their own schools of the past. They brag about how schools in the 30s and 40s, even 50s did so well, yet forget that dropping out of school was a legitimate career path then, and schools could, and did, discard kids as defective raw materials when they didn't conform. Those schools in the past did do a good job for some, but aren't sufficient in an age where the expectation is that all kids learn. With the digital disruptor mindset, nothing is held sacred when it comes to transforming education.
We can choose the mindset with which we approach technology and its potential. The mindset we choose will determine whether we engage in transforming our schools or whether we simply continue to tweak an outdated education system. We can choose the mindset of a technology adopter, which means we continue to look for ways to enhance an obsolete, 20th century model of education, or we can choose the mindset of a digital disruptor. The digital disruptor mindset means we employ the technology to engage new opportunities for reinventing both teaching and learning.

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