Transforming Education: For the Love of Learning: Imagine Innovations That Allow Students to Gain Credit for the Process of Learning What They Personally Love, and Not Just Getting a Better Score on What They Must Learn

By Warren, Glen; Manthey, George | Leadership, September-October 2011 | Go to article overview

Transforming Education: For the Love of Learning: Imagine Innovations That Allow Students to Gain Credit for the Process of Learning What They Personally Love, and Not Just Getting a Better Score on What They Must Learn


Warren, Glen, Manthey, George, Leadership


It's been written that if you grew up using something then you'll never consider it "technology;" it's just how life is. The fact that we can find an answer to almost every informational question on this device that fits in the palm of our hands blows us away. However, our students aren't that impressed.

Certainly there have been transforming technologies over the course of human history: the spring-wound clock, the printing press, the automobile. Yet we're wondering if our current educational fascination with computer technologies is truly worthy of the word "transformational."

It's not that we don't love our gadgets. We can't imagine writing this article without our computers and the Internet, which we are using to send drafts back and forth. We wouldn't think of leaving home without our smart phones. It may be that the transformation we are most interested in really has little to do with technology, although it can certainly be assisted with it.

We're most interested in a transformation in what we think of as a quality education. We don't think technology is transformational if it is used only as a sustaining innovation of the current model of education. There is a difference between transforming and improving education.

The transformation we are interested in has more to do with building the capacity for students to identify what they believe can be passed on to others. That's different than improving on what we are already doing. Let's not mix up transformation with improvement.

We submit that the cornerstone difference between improving education and transforming it revolves around something that seems too often missing in today's schools: a love of and passion for learning and what can be done with what one learns. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with improving our current educational model, but when one invokes the word transformative, one expects more than just improvement.

Valuing the desired curriculum

We are improving the current educational model when innovations are used to solely produce better results of the required and assessed content. We are transforming education when innovations are used to provide a depth of individualization of learning for the student that includes valuing not only the required curriculum (what the student must learn), but also the desired curriculum (what the student wants to learn).

Imagine transforming innovations that open the door for students to gain credit for the process of learning what they personally love, and not just getting a better score on what they must learn!

Transformation in education has a kinship to the idea advanced by Clayton Christenson in his book, "Disrupting Class": that there are innovations that either sustain the current product or service called sustaining innovations- or disruptive innovations that bring about real change.

In April 2009 at the Milken Institute Global Conference a panel discussion titled "Transforming Technologies" convened with facilitator Michael Horn, co-author of "Disrupting Class." He started off with an objection to the title. He shared with the panel and the audience that although technologies play a key role in transforming education, "It is not the only thing." Michael advanced a new title to the panel: "Transforming Innovations."

In "Disrupting Class" (2008) the authors argue that online learning will become a "transforming and disruptive innovation." Disruptive innovations are defined as those that replace "expensive, complicated and inaccessible products or services with much less expensive, simpler and more convenient alternatives."

They believe that "online learning is a disruptive force that can transform the factory-like structure of American schools. Out of the transformation, a new model will emerge that is highly personalized, student-centric and more productive, providing better results at the same or lower cost. …

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