Thursday, November 18, 2010
Christensen claims that enrollment in online courses in our public schools has increased from 45,000 in 2000 to over a million today. He cites the increase is caused by online offerings in the areas of AP courses, credit recovery, specialized courses, home schooling, and students in rural and urban schools how aren’t offered a wide range of curricular choices. Credit Recovery is certainly front and center in South Dakota after the Activities Association made it a possibility for athletes to become eligible after failing a course.
Christensen states (p. 93) “Computer based learning is a welcome solution when the alternative is to forgo learning the subject altogether.” This is true when declining enrollment or a dwindling budget requires a school to cut electives.
The chapter focuses on a two part proposition in the first part, computer based learning, and growth is dependent by software cost and software’s inability to adapt to a student’s intelligence type and learning style. The second part, student centric technology, is where software is created that creates individualized learning for each student. Software would take into account how a student learns and their level of intelligence. This sounds great but I’m somewhat skeptical that it can take the place of the teacher or personal tutor.
On page 105, Christensen describes the future of the classroom. He takes us to a Chemistry classroom in the future where students complete their lab assignment in a virtual chemlab with 150,000 students seated at computer terminals across the country. Again, he cites that this may not be optimal, but it is better than the alternative of having nothing at all.
The chapter concludes with a discussion on the future of assessment. He compared the assembly lines found at Chrysler and Toyota production plants. The point of this was to show that at Toyota, you were not allowed be trained on step two until you had mastered step one. This was not true of Chrysler. The purpose of this was to show the similarities found in education’s traditional form of assessment which allowed students to move on to the next chapter after failing the current one. Online courses commonly will not allow the student to move on without having mastered what they are currently working on. Again, I believe most teachers would choose to use the kind of assessment but due to class size and required standards it may not be possible.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Chapter Two starts out with the assertion that schools actually ARE improving, moving up the vertical axis of their industry. However, schools have endure significant disruptive events—the Nation at Risk report and NCLB—that have changed the way they are judged, and has made them look less than stellar.
Then the book starts getting into its main thrust of expertise: disruptive innovation theory. While somewhat complex, here’s a quick summary of the key points:
· Companies are constantly innovating, but most of these changes can be described as sustaining innovations because they sustain performance improvements in established markets (faster computers, more fuel-efficient airplanes, longer lasting batteries, etc.). While there are dramatic breakthroughs, most are routine.
· Disruptive innovations are different because they disrupt the “established plane of competition” by reaching a new market which previously held “non-consumers”.
· Disruptive innovations are actually inferior in quality—at least at first—but it doesn’t matter because they satisfy the need of the new market. One prominent example is the personal computer, which was originally marketed as a toy (remember the early Apples?) to children.
· Eventually, the product or service improves to a point where it eventually replaces the established ones, the way microcomputers displaced mainframe minicomputers.
· Established companies and products are usually unable to stop this because they have too much invested in the way they do things.
They attempt to apply this theory to schools, again reiterating that schools have been improving over the years despite various hardships. Schools have been asked to do the equivalent of rebuilding an aircraft in mid-flight: to adjust to changing metrics, then to improve on each new measure. These essentially became “new” jobs to do, tasks that the public school system in its existing paradigm was never designed to undertake. The authors outlined, as a means of providing historical context, the jobs that schools have been assigned over the years.
· Job 1: Preserve Democracy and Inculcate Democratic Values—from the inception of our country to the mid-late 1800s
· Job 2: Provide Something Different for Every Student—disruptive events such as industrialization, promotion of high school, the cold war and the space race—through 1960’s
· Job 3: Keeping America Competitive—a shift began, underscored by the belief (for the first time) that our schools weren’t doing well enough.
· Job 4: Eliminate Poverty—NCLB and ensuring that every child in every demographic improves his or her scores.
Clearly the job of education has become harder to do. But based on this history, the authors assert that schools have been consistently improving and are motivated to improve their outcomes.
Chapter three outlines the reasons why our attempts at employing technology in education have largely met with little improvement in achievement. The authors utilized examples from several different private industries to show that “unless top managers actively manage this (innovative) process, their organization will shape every disruptive innovation into a sustaining innovation—one that fits the processes, values, and economic model of the existing business…” In other words, we shape change to our existing purposes because we naturally choose to not disrupt ourselves.
Schools invested heavily in computers because they saw industry do it. We crammed our classrooms with them. Many students, however, report using them infrequently. Even when they are used a lot, are used as a tool, rather than as a primary instructional mechanism that helps them learn in ways that are customized to their type of intelligence. (Ref. Gardner, ch1) Traditional practices have not evolved despite the presence of computers.
At the end of the chapter, the authors make a strong case that successful disruptive innovation can only take place when it competes against “non-consumption.” Take, for example, if the earliest recorded music (victrola, phonograph records) had competed against actual live music. It never would have thrived or developed. In the same way, simply “cramming” computers into classrooms to be utilized in the same way as traditional instruction doesn’t fly.
If deployed “disruptively”, computers could “bit by bit change the way learning takes place in schools” and can transform the classroom into places where “all students can learn in the ways their individual minds are wired to learn.”