Throughout the book, Disrupting Class, the authors refer to traditional school as a “monolithic structure” – one that has standardized instruction to groups of students. They point out that not all students learn the same and that in the current structure, school is able to meet the needs of some students but not all. As one example of the ways students learn differently, they use Gardner’s eight intelligences to illustrate what they mean. As most educators know, all students learn differently and Gardner has illustrated this with his theory of eight intelligences including: linguistic (Walt Whitman), logical-mathematical (Albert Einstein), spatial (Frank Lloyd Wright), bodily-kinesthetic (Michael Jordan), musical (Mozart), interpersonal (Mother Teresa), intrapersonal (Freud), naturalist (Rachel Carson). The challenge is that, within the traditional structure of school, how do you meet all these needs?
What is needed is customization and personalization for learning, but this can’t happen in the current traditional current structure of school.
The authors illustrate how all products and services have an architecture or design (a la A Whole New Mind). The place where two parts fit together is an interface, which exist within a product and between groups of people. There are two types of interface: interdependence and modularity. If a product or service is interdependent, you can’t predict if they will work well together. The better interface is modularity, because modularity optimizes flexibility which allows for easy customization. One comparison made was Microsoft’s Windows Operating System is interdependent, while Linux is modular. Customization or modularity is always more expensive, but it is one way of better meeting the learning needs of students.
The authors suggest that all schooling should move towards a “student-centric model.” The continuum shared is that on one end of the continuum are “monolithic structures that are interdependent” and on the other end are “student-centric modular structures.” They conclude this section by saying, “computer-based learning is emerging as a disruptive force and a promising opportunity.” And, then they agree that schools have done a “remarkable job of shifting to meet the public’s demands – and have improved over time.” (Chapter 1)
The examples and analogies shared in these chapters are all business models – Apple computers, Microsoft, Dell, Ford motor company. Every time I read these business books – and you find them in all of these – Good to Great, The World is Flat, etc. – there are always business analogies compared to education. No doubt this can be done, but I wonder if it is really a valid comparison. Businesses do deal with products, services and people, but education primarily deals with services and people. Unlike business, K-12 education is compulsory. Whatever student that walks through the door needs to be taught. But, yes, the challenge is how to make education more personalized and customized for the learner and few current, traditional schools are doing this now.