Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Butterfly Effect

Originally Posted on July 25, 2012

Anyone who has seen the movie Jurassic Park is probably somewhat familiar with the butterfly effect as described by actor Jeff Goldblum playing Dr. Ian Malcolm in which a butterfly flaps it's wings in Shanghai and you get rain in Central Park instead of sunshine.  The Butterfly effect I am speaking of came to mind while I was reading an article on Evolllution.com by Dr. Kyle Peck who is a professor of education at Penn State University.  In his post, Replacing Educators: How Innovation is Changing the Teaching Role, Dr. Peck says about butterflies:

 "I don’t know what (if anything) a caterpillar feels* as it transforms into a butterfly, but I suspect it’s confused and uncomfortable. In a remarkably short time, the changes are massive, the product that emerges is VERY different, and most people would report liking the new version better than the old. The result is a thing of beauty and as a result of the transformation what once crawled is actually flying!" 

He then goes on to talk about how technology is disrupting higher education at a rapid pace.  He speaks of how this disruption will change higher education to a system in which delivery of lessons will become more and more facilitated by technology and that the role of the teacher will be that of assessing students knowledge.  He finishes with the following quote, which I find very relevant to what we are wanting to do at the School of Inquiry:
"As Stephen Heppel put it; 'In the 20th century, we built big things and did things for people. In the 21st century we help people help each other. Helping people help each other in learning is a whole different place than just delivering stuff to them. … We’re moving to a very different place in terms of learning. It’s a viral, agile, peer-to-peer, collegial sort of place that we’re moving to.'"

While this is the vision of the School of Inquiry-a collaborative place in which young minds are challenged through real world projects and learners are encouraged to pursue their passions with the aid of an expert guide (facilitator), the butterfly analogy he began with is what struck me most.  This is what this next year, and likely the three following them, will be for all of us involved at Inquiry.  

For students and staff the relationship of teacher and student that they have know for most of their lives and careers will be upended.  No longer will the teacher be the sage on the stage who holds all the wisdom (answers), but rather they will be a guide to help students discover answers of their own.  

For parents students may need more support at home than ever before.  They will be tackling a new way of learning, with a rigorous curriculum that will challenge not just what they know, but how they learn new content.  

For administrators like me it will require the willingness to step back, support teachers, and acknowledge that the process may be messy, but like a caterpillar  going through it's metamorphosis-the end product has the potential to be one of beauty if we, like the chrysalis, protect the butterfly during it's metamorphosis and give it the support to finally spread its wings and fly.  

I can't wait for the journey to begin, for our practice to change, and for our learners to fly.

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