Quietly Disruptive?

Since the topic for the #21stedchat Twitter chat last night was disruption in education, I wasn’t surprised when someone shared this link – especially since Donna had just shared it on Google+ as well.  But I was surprised that participants in the chat didn’t take time to agree on a definition of disruption before we started talking about it, and that so few seemed to be familiar with Christensen’s two interrelated theories of disruption.  Without an agreed definition, we seemed to develop a tacit one as the conversation progressed: disruption came to mean “cool, tech-oriented, student-centered things I’m currently doing, or wanting to do, in my teaching context.”

That’s a fine thing to talk about – and it’s a frequent theme on #21stedchat.  But I think the word disruption is too important – and too overused – to leave undefined, half-defined, or tacitly defined.  I was also hoping for a substantive conversation about the Stratechery link, and specifically about the implications of how, as Ben Thompson puts it, Christensen’s theories have “explained all of corporate America but for its most successful company – Apple.”

Go read the article if you haven’t done so yet.  And think about it – and about its implications for education in a time when the consumers (broadly defined) have a lot more voice and choice than they did at the height of the industrial model.  What would an integrated approach to teaching and learning look like?  What would a modular approach look like?  Where are we now,  which direction are we going, and is that the direction we should be going?

Huge questions, and I want to save them for another day, when we’ve all had a chance to process them.

As I write, the First Reporting Period of the new school year is drawing to a close.  It will end on Wednesday, and report cards go home early next week.  At a meeting this afternoon, I’ll put on my “Technology Mentor hat” and show my colleagues how to finalize grades and choose appropriate comments for their students in the New Student Information System.  I have a feeling there will be many calls and emails this week; it’s a simple, straightforward process, but it’s just different enough from the Old Way that some folks will need – or feel as though they need – some extra guidance and support.  There’s a Special Event on Wednesday, too, and I need to finish preparing an Important Thing for part of the Special Time.  And meanwhile, when I put on my “teacher hat,” I’ll be guiding my students through the first of their Major Assessments of the new school year.

When my Spanish-teacher colleague and I designed our proficiency-based grading system last fall, we knew we wanted to move away from task compliance to demonstrated proficiency as the basis for Those Numbers … and as I look back on the rest of that school year, I think we did a pretty good job.  We’ve reduced the number of Minor Assessments per grading period from three to two, but otherwise the system is holding up well.  The upper-level group, familiar as they are with the process, won’t need much explanation; they’ll be reading the first three stories in Tres Columnae Lectio XXX and making a Character Diagram, a short “quid nunc?” story, and a new thing we’re calling a Products / Practices / Perspectives diagram as their Collaborative Response today and tomorrow.  Individual Responses start on Tuesday, and the Collaborative Responses will be presented on Wednesday.  The Latin I classes, who will need a bit of an explanation first, will be making a similar set of products for the last three stories – the ones about Ridiculus, Ferox, Medusa, and Sabina the mustela – in Lectio IV, but their diagrams are relatively simpler (no driving/restraining forces for the characters just yet, and probably no perspectives on the culturally-focused diagram) and they’ll have a word bank to use for their “quid nunc?” story.  The Individual Response process hasn’t changed from the end of last year, though of course each group has a level-appropriate set of rubrics and proficiency expectations.

We’ll see how everything goes today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.  We’ll also see whether Ms. X and Mr. Y have any plans to wrap up the reporting period, or whether they’ll just be forging ahead as they sometimes do.  “I don’t have time to give and grade a big old test right now,” One Ms. X complained around this time last year, “because I have too much to cover and you would not believe what those bad, lazy students claim they don’t remember from last year!”  For That Ms. X, it was all about task compliance, I think; she “gave and graded” tests because she was supposed to, and students did assignments because they, too, were supposed to.  If they did things right, she seemed to believe, everything would fall into place, including enough – but not too many – good grades, and probably even some learning.  I was glad when That Ms. X decided not to “come back” this year; I think she’s one of the set who were expecting babies and had decided to “be a mom” for a year or two.  I have a feeling that, once she has a child of her own, she’ll become a bit more flexible and understanding.

One area of consensus that did emerge on #21stedchat Sunday evening was that big, lasting changes often grow from seemingly small beginnings.  You wouldn’t necessarily think that having a baby would make someone a better teacher; people have babies all the time, and while it’s a huge thing for the new parents, it’s a seemingly small beginning for the world at large.  You wouldn’t think that minor changes to a grading system would make vast alterations in class climate or focus either, but somehow that’s happened, for both the “Latin Family” and our Spanish friends, over the past year or so.  When you build a joyful learning community together, and when you do it with, not for each other, those seemingly small beginnings are even more important.

I wonder what new beginnings – and what new amazing results – we’ll see today!

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Published in: on September 23, 2013 at 10:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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