Friday, January 4, 2013

Be a Netflix in your school, not a Blockbuster!

   Blockbuster began in 1985 & was extremely successful, an innovator in video & game rentals.  They derived their success in large part to customizing each store to meet the need of the local demographic.  However, somewhere a long the way they went from an innovative company in the 80's & 90's to a flat footed giant in the 21st century.  Companies that were innovative, mainly Netflix, passed Blockbuster right by leading to their eventual bankruptcy in 2010.
     Their mistake was that somewhere along the innovation, adaption  & creativity stopped being 2nd nature as a way of doing business   Instead they fell into the trap of thinking well if this has been successful for twenty years why wouldn't it be successful for another twenty?  At the point they realized others were passing them by with new & innovative business models they simply couldn't gain traction.  They had loss the innovative climate that had made them a success.
     How does that apply to teaching?  Think on this, does any basketball player really think about dribbling the ball while they are headed down the court?  Of course not, it is second nature, habit, ingrained in their minds as what they do when they get on the court.  They don't have to think about it, they don't have to plan for it, its just the way they do what they do!
     Technology in Education should be much the same way.  To be effective, technology cannot be something we do extra, something you do in tech class, or something only the "techy teachers" do.  It has to be apart of the fabric of our teaching,  our pedagogy.  If it is not second nature than practice it, use it, just don't neglect it...(thought I was going to say abuse it didn't you)!
     The time for bragging that you don't need technology to be a good teacher is over.  Every educator worth his/her salt knows that a good teacher is a good teacher no matter what tools they have (case closed).  However, what are you preparing your students for & what kind of experience are you helping them build along the way.  Are you just preparing them to take a test or are you choosing to prepare/educate them for life.  My argument has always been if we focus on preparing/educating the child to be a productive citizen the test will take care of itself, but what do I know.
     Imagine a spectacular band teacher/director who instructs the students on how to read music, the history of music, understanding beats, key signatures, phrasing, rhythm & so forth, but never puts an instrument in their hands.  Should they be surprised at the concert when the students don't know how to play?  They were a great teacher & the students learned a lot, but they were not prepared to play in a concert.  Are you teaching your students great content, but not preparing them for the concert of life? Will they be prepared to use it in the world they will one day work?
    Today's world is technology based, & we need to be preparing students for success.  Not as if technology were something separate that one does apart from learning or only with certain teachers, but infused in everything one does.  Stats can say what you want them to, but in a 2012 report McKinsey Global Institute reported that 72% of companies today use social technologies in some way.  However, it goes on to say very few are reaching their potential of how they could be using the technology.  Are we preparing students to one day help companies reach their potential.  What if instead of thinking facebook & twitter were just for fun (or bragging, or bullying) students realized the powerful importance of how social media can be used to network, learn, & promote!  Not because we were talking about it or teaching them about it, but because we were using it as the norm of how we conduct day to day learning. We don't have to think about it, we don't have to plan for it, its just the way we do what we do! WOW!!!
     Of course we can always hunker down & hope this technology stuff passes over.  That is pretty much what Blockbuster did until they realized a bit to late that if you attempt to let it pass over others will just pass you by.  "Techy teachers" don't just happen, they work, learn, & practice until technology becomes as 2nd nature as bouncing a ball or peddling a bike.  Be a Netflix in your school, not a Blockbuster, lead the way for yourself, your colleagues, & most importantly your students!

For some laughs check out the video George Couros posted in the comments.  Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. Enjoy! Blockbuster Museum

Info on Blockbuster taken from