Disrupting Learning

Some time back, I wrote a post on the future of e-learning. Reading that, a learned reader referred me to read Disrupting Class, a study by Clayton M Christensen and others about how disruptive innovation will change education.

The central premise of this book is simple. Citing Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, the authors point out that we all learn in different ways. They then go on to assert the current factory mode of learning, where one teacher has to teach a number of students together, does not allow the tutors to adjust to an individual student's learning preferences. Therefore, the current system leaves too many children behind - aggravating social problems and creating economic imbalances.

However, the authors see the possible solution in technology. The technology can make learning asynchronous, and allow individual students to learn according to their own preference and style. This shift will of course impact the way the current education system runs, and will deeply impact public policy making in education. This will hurt the teachers' unions but will possibly elevate the teachers' social status and will restore the specialness of teaching all over again. The teachers, with the changes such a shift will bring to the parameters they are assessed upon, will be able to focus back on the business of teaching. The new technology, like other disruptive technologies in other fields, will target non-consumption - will allow the students who are not participating in today's education system to participate - and significantly expand the scope of education.

The technology, of course, is already here. The Web 2.0 technologies allow the environment to be built according to the participant's choice and allow him/her to take on a persona and play a role. This is almost ideal in learning - if I can decide my classroom, what I learn and what I want to be by learning this - and this can indeed change the whole education industry.

As optimistic as ever, I am trying to build a small company in India researching the application of such technology in learning. In India, because if it's implemented there, it will bring a real revolution - create asynchronous learning models for diverse classrooms that we usually live with. Mindsets will be there, as usual, but the benefits are so obvious that it is easy to see why it will surely work out in the end.

The business, as usual, is in the concept stage and we are trying to raise initial capital to get going. But I do think this will make a significant difference the way people learn. I am so excited about it that I am ready to chuck my job and current study commitments and plunge into this head on, even if this means shifting back to Bangalore in next few months.


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