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Disruption: The basis of creativity and innovation.
What do you understand by the term ‘disruption’? Is it a positive or negative term? For most people it’s negative, but for educators…and for students, it’s really very positive. Disruption means to break up the status-quo. In our school systems, both public and private, there seems to be a malaise. Things are done this way because they’ve always been done this way. By re-thinking how we teach our subjects, reimagine them if you will, we can disrupt the system and allow for new growth to take place.
Think of disruption in education like the disruption caused by a forest fire. The forest usually comes back even stronger and healthier than before. The same could be said for disruption in education. After having one too many students with attitude issues in my English classes, I felt I was at a point where either I was going to burn out and leave the profession, or redouble my efforts to engage my students. I chose the latter and the first thing I did was to decide on a plan to disrupt how English was taught…at least as I taught it at my institution. I also began looking for a new way to teach and some inspiration.
I found that inspiration while watching a TED talk on the subject of schools and creativity by a fellow named Sir Kenneth Robinson. The talk, entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity”, has become the most downloaded and watched TED talk ever. That’s for good reason. His talk struck a chord with me, and I suspect, many other teachers, that our current educational model has failed and alternatives need to be found if we are to prepare our students for an uncertain future in which technology and society are evolving at an ever faster pace.
I wasn’t too worried about the future, really, but I could see a need for change. My students were bored, and they were tired of English classes. In some cases, my students had studied more than 10 years of English, yet they could barely form sentences and the idea of teaching them to write seemed ludicrous. My job was to prepare students who had no desire, no ambition, no affinity for English to take the TOEFL iBT and do well on it. Unfortunately, this goal seemed out of reach to me unless I could find a way to disrupt the paradigm at hand. Finally, it dawned on me. Maybe I could try teaching English skills that mattered to students. I wrote a book for my students to use and it was full of useful things like how to use campus email, write directions, and give a good, well-prepared speech. I still use a lot of the activities in this book. Most of these activities are good ones and I did get a lot of positive feedback, but it didn’t go far enough. I needed something else. Gamification seemed like a good answer. Click here to continue…