Some thoughts on thinking

We often look at concepts and ideas as either being positive or negative in nature.    The fact is however that things are not that simple or that black and white.   The complexity of ideas was drawn into focus as I read the term “desirable difficulty” in the book, “How we learn”, which I am currently reading.   How could something “difficult”, a negative term, be considered “desirable”?

During the course of my day I was working on an analysis of different tablet computers options for use in my school.    As part of the process I was listing the benefits and the drawbacks of different devices such as the iPad, MS Surface, etc.    One point I listed was that of the standardization of the iPad which I considered a positive.    At the same time the customization and user personalization of the MS surface was a positive.   As I looked again I identified the strength of the iPad as a weakness of the MS surface and the strength of the MS Surface as a weakness of the iPad.   The strength of standardization within the iPad was actually also a weakness in the lack of customization or personalization it allowed for in the same device.    An the strength in the MS Surface turned out equally to be its weakness.   In both cases each feature was both a strength and a weakness.    To make use of the strength in an iPad I had to acknowledge and tolerate the weakness.   The same being true for the MS Surface.

Another term I have heard recently, which I myself am fond of, is the term “disruptive innovation”.   Again we have a positive in “innovation” but a negative in “disruption”.     Yet when we talk of disruptive innovation we are referring to an overall positive.

“A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leaders and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995”.

As we initially explore the new innovation it causes disruption which is likely to be viewed as a negative feature of the innovation.  I would suggestion that during this phase the change is not likely to be seen as an innovation and more as just a change and possibly an unwanted change.   Someime after the initial change when people reflect they will see the benefits, at which point the change will come to be considered as an innovation and the disruption as a necessary step in the progression towards an end.

Any idea cannot be seen as purely positive or negative.   It is better viewed as having some positive features and some negative features, with individuals seeking to identify both.   Also the resulting perceptions regarding positive and negative features cannot necessarily be viewed as static as changes in perception may occur over time.    The idea “is” positive, would therefore be better phrased as the “idea currently is perceived to be more positive than negative”.

The question is how the above might impact on education.    How often do you give thought to the views, beliefs and ideas you hold to be true?



Author: garyhenderson2014

Gary Henderson is currently the Director of IT in an Independent school in the UK. Prior to this he worked as the Head of Learning Technologies working with public and private schools across the Middle East. This includes leading the planning and development of IT within a number of new schools opening in the UAE. As a trained teacher with over 15 years working in education his experience includes UK state secondary schools, further education and higher education, as well as experience of various international schools teaching various curricula. This has led him to present at a number of educational conferences in the UK and Middle East.

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