No one ever said it would be easy and trying to change mind sets and then help people change their behavior is a huge challenge. Someone once said that there are too many people who mistake the edge of the rut for the horizon. Entrenchment is a familiar condition in many institutions and organizations, partly because of being very comfortable with the familiar and the resistance to any radical change. It’s much easier to keep doing what one has been doing than to learn something entirely new and different and apply it, especially as an adult.
History tells us that the biggest changes have often come about because of a revolution as well as an evolution over time. It may be easier, less painful and inexpensive to help facilitate an evolution than to precipitate a revolution although a revolution might be indicated in some situations. It might make sense to dismiss the old model to make room for an entirely new way of doing things, especially if the new model has been tested and proven effective. Change is coming whether or not it is wanted so the question is how can we help design the change to be the most effective?
Creating an environment that will help determine the culture, rather than having the existing culture determine the environment might be a good beginning. Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown’s recent book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating Imagination for a World of Constant Change makes this point eminently clear in the following observation: “In the new culture of learning, the classroom model is replaced by learning environments in which digital media provide access to a rich source of information and play, and the processes that occur within those environments are integral to the results.” Thomas and Brown maintain that the teacher-based approach to learning focuses on teaching us about the world while a new culture of learning focuses on engagement with the world.
Imagine a curriculum consisting of real world problems and turning kids loose to create solutions. That would demand access to unlimited, existing information – available – collaboration with others and a working laboratory or studio to create models for solutions. Teachers would have to surrender a lot of their power and authority to the learners and learn a new way of being the teacher – a resource, guide, critic, coach and colleague. Imagine putting together (not necessarily building in the traditional sense) a new school without the traditional classrooms and hallways, perhaps using community resources, facilities and more commercial type spaces – warehouses, empty office buildings and other spaces to create the laboratories and studios where the kids would brainstorm and game storm (http://vimeo.com/18880751) and in that process become a more passionate and purposeful person in the world of today and tomorrow.
Students still need the basic and pre-requisite skills of computation, communication and comprehension and those can be learned or acquired while practicing how to read, write, speak and compute, especially in the early years. Adding some music, poetry and team work, whether in drama or athletics, might also be a welcome component in a comprehensive, developmental, coordinated and outcome focused program. If this sounds too radical and too experimental, then maybe it’s simply not for you but it’s already happening in many places and it’s having a positive impact and making a big difference. If you need a resource to get started to “Think Different”, as Apple said, have a look at some of Michael Michalko’s work: Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; and ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck .
It might take a year or three to begin to make significant changes and shift the paradigm. It might take five years to change the culture of a particular institution and the people will make the difference between a place that remains comfortable with the status quo and doesn’t see the need to change and a place that embraces the future by designing the change they want to become. Where would you like to be in three to five years? Where would you like your organization to be and how will it look and function? You and your colleagues have the answers to those questions. Begin now and make the propositions to shift the paradigm and change the culture.