Forces Against Disruption

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In this week’s reading of Christensen (2011), discusses some of the forces that limit the disruptive products that could transform our current, monolithic K-12 system. The production and distribution of textbooks and instructional materials limits student-centric disruptions because a text is usually written by a few experts and caters to a “’dominant intelligence’ for the type of brain whose wiring is most consistent with the methods used to solve problems in the field” (pg. 128-129). Additionally, smaller production companies who may want to produce texts and materials that appeal to different types of learners are unable to do so because it is currently too expensive; Bigger companies can spread cost out by volume and eventually small companies are folded into the big companies that are focused on producing top-selling, fixed and static textbooks (pg. 129-130). Another prevailing force against a major disruption is the current system for the sale and distribution of teaching materials, cementing “the system in monolithic, large-scale products” (p. 130). A few curriculum experts at the district and state level make textbook adoption decisions and “once a few large boards have made an ‘adoption decision,’ many other states and school districts tend to follow their lead rather than go through their own evaluation processes” (p.130).

Furthermore, a school’s reputation and funding hinges upon students’ ability on standardized and high-stakes tests and if a text does not explicitly prepare students for these tests, they can not be adopted (p.131). Although administrators do understand that one textbook will not meet the varying needs and learning styles of different students, but student-centric products are unsustainable and will not be adopted within the current mainstream school system because they do “not fit the criterion of addressing the dominant intelligence in the field, as well as the economic and test-score appeal of one-size-fits-as-many-as-possible” (131).

While this is our current climate, data analysis suggests that despite these opposing forces and even without “explicit administrative decisions ever having been made, student-centric learning will have become mainstream” around 2014 when 25% of high school classes will be offered online (p.143). We as teachers need to be looking for innovative ways to incorporate available technology. Additionally, while our current system is on the verge of a major shift, we need to be flexible, willing to adapt, and creatively supplement our “one-size-fits-most” textbooks and curriculums with interactive, collaborative and student-centric activities and materials whenever possible.

Christensen, C., Johnson, C.W., & Horn, M.B. (2011). Disrupting class: how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (kindle). McGraw-Hill.

While using the Kindle App to complete my reading this week, I highlighted many passages. Perhaps I over highlight, but upon completing the reading, I wanted to peruse through the chapter 5 highlights before writing my reflection, so I selected the “Notes & Marks” button. While I appreciate the highlighting option, I had to scroll through a long list of highlights from previous chapters before finding the highlights for chapter 5. While it wasn’t extremely time consuming, viewing options could be improved for this feature to provide more organized and efficient access to the passages. The page number is provided at the bottom of each highlight listed, which really isn’t particularly helpful considering you don’t know what chapter it’s from—so maybe that simple addition, next to the page number would be helpful!

Flashcard Machine–a student-centric learning tool


This week for our technology tool exploration, I discovered and investigated Flashcard Machine, an application that allows you to quickly create your own flashcards on your iphone or ipad, customize study sessions based on performance by separating flashcards into “correct,” “wrong,” and “flagged” piles, and tag flashcards to allow for easy and organized sharing. The iTunes App Store provides a very detailed description of the product and features, which I found helpful and informative before deciding to download the application.

The application is very user friendly and directed me through a “deck” of flashcards while explaining the various features and options available. I found the “Progress” feature particularly helpful for studying because you can filter the flashcards to allow for repeat study of categories such as flashcards you got “wrong.” This ensures that study sessions are student-centric, customized to ensure that concepts and terms are mastered according to the learner’s needs and pace. Additionally you can enhance your “study session” by deciding whether you want the term or definition to be displayed first, you can change the flashcard font, size and color as well as shuffle cards by shaking your phone or selecting the “shuffle” option.

With this application, study materials are always at your fingertips and are accessible without an internet connection making studying on-the-go quick and easy. When downloading the application, I received 100 flashcards for free, but must pay if I decide I need more flashcards. While it does cost $4.99 for “unlimited flips,” this may be five dollars well-spent for accessible, customized learning experiences.

Disruption Markets and Computer-Based Learning

Chapter 4 of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the World discusses the disruptions that are currently taking place within schools. The first stage in the transition from “teacher-delivered” to “software-delivered” instruction is computer-based learning which is “methodically gaining ground as students, educators, and families find it to be better than the alternative-having nothing at all” (pg.90-91).

Disruption markets are developing in many significant areas of education: Advanced Placement classes because “there is an inadequate demand and resources to hire more AP teachers,” smaller schools who may otherwise have to cut classes because they may not be able to hire “highly qualified” teachers for every subject, urban secondary schools, especially in low-income areas because they may “struggle to find highly qualified teacher who are committed to working in such a challenging environments,” and homebound or home-schooled students may also be a great market for computer-based learning to increase depth of learning and subject range, as well as provide alternatives for students who need to make up credits (pg. 92-94). The modularity and flexibility of computer-based learning would allow students to experience a customized educational experience where they do not have to waste time on concepts they have already learned.

This chapter was particularly relevant for me as pre-service high school English teacher because according to the data projections, “by 2019, about 50 percent of high school courses will be delivered online” (p. 99). I understand that online courses provide convenience, accessibility, greater flexibility as well as an economic advantage, but I can’t help feeling that this “advancement” is not wholly a positive one. Sure, I want there to remain a demand for teachers, because that means employment, but there is a human quality about learning from and beside others that will be lost to the ease and access of computer-based learning. While access to information may increase, so will isolation. And there is something to be said about mentorship as a part of teaching that I feel will be lost with such a technology-based approach to instruction. Speaking as one who has taken many online and mixed-online courses, I feel less engaged and a bit disconnected from the material when I am not interacting with the Professor or my peers. I wonder about the effect this instructional transition will have on the social and communication skills as well as the personal and moral development of our students.

I completed my reading for this week while on a red-eye flight to Michigan for a dear friend’s wedding. I had not previously explored the different viewing options available as part of the KindleReader, but did mid-flight. While reading in the middle of the night, I definitely preferred the color mode, black! The white background was harsh on my tired eyes whereas the black was not as bright or disruptive for the sleepy travelers beside me. From now on, I think I will read from either the black or the sepia mode because those modes do not seem to bother my eyes as quickly—I tend to get headaches from reading from a screen for too long.

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Computer-based Learning and Student-centric Technologies

Our reading this week focused on why schools do not utilize computers when computers could so easily enrich the learning experience of every student. Over the 20-30 years, schools have spent upwards of $60 billon in equipping classrooms with computers and yet, “despite these investments, students report using the computers sparsely in their classrooms” (p. 81). Christensen suggests that computers should be utilized as more of a primary instructional mechanism to ensure that learning is customized to students’ varying types of intelligences while allowing the teacher to give more focused attention to each student (p. 73). As a pre-service teacher, it is important to understand and utilize the powerful software and hardware that is available in order to “transform prevailing instructional practices” (p.82). While high school students do use computers more often than elementary students, high schoolers are limited to word-processing programs and the internet for research, hardly experiencing computers as an instructional tool. We are cramming computers into classroom, but not allowing computers to modernize our traditional instructional practices. According to Christensen, we as teachers need to use computers to transform our teaching, to increase student-centered learning and project-based practices, to migrate to a student-centric classroom by allowing students to learn in ways that correspond with how their brains are wired (p. 83). Many existing pedagogies and instructional practices must be replaced by computers, not sustained by computers. Through employing the use of computer-based learning in a more disruptive mode, schools may realize the transformations of classrooms and student achievement.

I did not learn anything new while using the Kindle Reader this week, although I have switched to hitting the arrows on my keyboard to progress the pages rather than clicking the mouse on the forward arrow. This is much more convenient and I don’t have to look up from my reading, move my mouse, select the arrow and then re-orient myself on the next page—just a very small, but helpful way of navigating the text.
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A Few Problems with Standardization

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For some students struggling to master a particular concept, the presentation of material in a new way can make all the difference. Because every student’s brain is uniquely wired, students have different intelligences and do not learn in the same way. In light of this information, chapter one of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns discusses why schools and teachers do not completely customize learning (Christensen, Johnson, & Horn, 2011). The current architecture of schools is founded on standardization, a shift from the one-room schoolhouse, and “inspired by the efficient factory system that had emerged in industrial America” (Christensen, Johnson, & Horn, 2011, p. 35). The students arranged into grades could learn the same material in the same way, and at the same pace, allowing teachers to focus solely on one group of students and set content. This model, however, cannot currently “handle the differences in the way individual brains are wired for learning” (Christensen, Johnson, & Horn, 2011, p. 35). While standardization was previously seen as a virtuous method, Christensen, Johnson and Horn unabashedly state that schools are in desperate need of a new system, “because students have different types of intelligence, learning styles, varying paces, and starting points, all students have special needs”…and are “differently abled” Christensen, Johnson, & Horn, 2011, p.34).

The authors go on to suggest that computer-based learning is a valuable stepping stone toward student-centric learning which will allow students to learn according to their intelligence type, and at their own pace through customized content and sequence (Christensen, Johnson, & Horn, 2011, p. 38). Through implementing new technologies through incremental changes, this chapter suggests there is hope that schools will move further and further away from standardization and more toward student-centric learning.

I had never used eReader before, but definitely prefer to read anything of length from a book rather than a computer. I was frustrated initially after having read about 30 pages because I could not figure out how many pages I had left to read in the chapter. After some exploration, I did discover that if I clicked on the following chapter I could see what page it started on and then gage how many pages I had left to read—just a silly little thing, but helpful to know! Highlighting and making notes was extremely simple. When going back to write my reflection, upon completing the reading, it was very useful to see the list of highlights I had made and then to select a highlighted passage and be transported directly to the corresponding page.

Christensen, C., Johnson, C.W., & Horn, M.B. (2011). Disrupting class: how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (kindle). McGraw-Hill.