During an Innochat a year or so ago whose topic was innovation in education, a participant dismissed the Clayton Christensen-Michael Horn book Disrupting Class as “Chicken Soup for the teacher’s soul.”
There was at least one teacher present in that chat — my sister Wanda McClure, principal of Amana Academy, a charter school in Atlanta. Predictably enough she was offended. But the participant was correct, in the most positive way possible. Disrupting Class predicts that technological advances will disrupt education as we currently know it. I assumed, and I think others have to, that that meant technology that would replace the teacher.
What has happened instead is that many teachers, some not just inspired but empowered by the message in Disrupting Class, are exploring and experimenting with technologies. Instead of replacing them, help them extend themselves and innovate new ways to teach.
The jobs-to-be-done that teachers are turning to technology to solve seem to be about connection and collaboration, for themselves and for their students. So will disruption in education start with connected teachers creating connected classrooms?
That’s what it looked like to me a few weeks ago when my sister invited me to attend the first EdCamp in Atlanta, #EdCampATL, of which she and Nikki Robertson were co-directors. EdCamps, like all other [insertnamehere]Camps, are unconferences during which participants connect and exchange ideas and information.
Connect and exchange, however, was a mild description of what took place.
The opening keynote address was delivered via Skype. The closing panel was convened using Google Hangouts. In between, participants — primarily teachers and librarians — learned how other teachers were collaborating and how they were bringing collaboration into the classroom.
“Why” was addressed in Tom Whitby‘s keynote: “When I started teaching, I had an 11-teacher network” of whom to ask questions and with whom to connect and collaborate, from whom to learn. Social networking has increased connection and learning opportunities for us all, including teachers, as I learned.
I led one session on Twitter 101, not selling Twittter as such sessions often are, but demonstrating to a roomful of teachers determined to connect how they could find the people and information with which they were so eager to connect.
I attended another two sessions, one of which was a discussion led by high school French teacher Melinda Sears on collaborative tools for the classroom. An intro to the seemingly vast number of technologies that teachers can use to collaborate with parents and with students. Technologies for the students to collaborate amongst themselves (yay teamwork!), to create. Tools discussed included Edmodo (an FB for classrooms), Storybird, Voicethread.
A session on gamification for the classroom by Catherine Flippen, who explores gamification on her own time and uses the techniques to teach high-school Spanish, was even more head-spinningly full of theory and tools — how and why to consider gamifying lessons, set up alternate reality games, leave clues for kids to find in completing a lesson. Quest-based learning systems. Learning management systems.
More on what tools to use….Edmodo came up again (use for blogs, quests, awards), Coursera (allows teacher to set up badges students can earn); remind 101 (an app teachers can use to text with their students one-way without sharing phone numbers); Celly, to set up back-channel conversations in classrooms; iBuildApp to build mobile apps and widgets, Todaysmeet – another backchannel possibility. closed Twitter for the classroom.
Smackdown was even more dizzying — teachers volunteering to come up and give a two-minute demonstration of their favorite classroom technology and how to use it. And again passing along information — the Forsyth County, Georgia, school system has its own virtual world. iBuildApp is the easiest way to make your own mobile apps for classroom use. You can get approval for an app more quickly and less expensively through Google’s Android app store than through iTunes.
At EdCampATL, about 115 engaged, passionate teachers spent an uncompensated Saturday learning how to connect, better ways to connect, with whom to connect, in order to better perform their ultimate job-to-be-done — teach their students. At the end of the day I had the thought that disruptive innovation in education will arise in just this way — one teacher, one student, one classroom at a time.