30 Day Challenge – Day 6 – A State of Surprise

anchorGrant McCracken, in “The Corporation is at Odds with the Future,” noted:

“Here is my present idea of the corporation, give or take. The corporation is a thing of people, processes, places, and products (give or take). And these 4 Ps are relatively well-defined, organized, boundaried, and anchored (more or less).

In many ways, this describes most classes in higher education – well-defined, organized, boundaried, and anchored.

But McCracken goes on to suggest that – for organizations – this is a problem, because the corporation is:

“…deeply at odds with the future. Because the future is never defined, organized, boundaried, or anchored. Really, it’s all just hints and whispers. Fragile melody, no refrain.”

McCracken then suggests that if the future is a world of “speed, surprise, noise, and responsiveness,” then corporations need to visit the future frequently, and strive to create the future within their sphere of influence – “…make pieces of the future happen inside the corporation…”.

Surprise!Very suggestive for the future of higher education as well.  As I work with faculty, I am struck by how many view the future as “the enemy”, as McCracken suggested.  They look to keep their basic teaching model and retrofit educational technology in ways that do not disrupt their teaching approach.  Yet, their students will move into a world of increasing disruption.  Clayton Christensen has published examples of disruptions – surprises – that upended established businesses.

So my 30-day challenge question for today – Day 6: What would teaching look like if both the course and every student lived in a state of surprise?

A state of surprise might suggest that our content is not defined but continually evolving and in need of discovery.  A state of surprise might suggest that knowledge within our discipline is not organized but messy and in need of organizing (or even crowdsourcing).  Wikipedia would not be the enemy but the model.  Our class walls and clocks on the wall will no longer be boundaries defining our course.  We as teachers and our students will no longer be anchored to the past but sailing over unknown horizons to look for (and create) the future.

Granted, teaching based on the past is safe.  Teaching based on surprise is risky.  Yet, do we move our students’ critical thinking and capacity for learning forward is we are “safe”?  How would you build “surprise” into your class?


{Graphic: Serps, EcoCatLady}

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One thought on “30 Day Challenge – Day 6 – A State of Surprise

  1. In my presentation last year at the VCU Online Learning Summit, I covered this very topic. My courses are “messy” as students discover new content on various topics (their choice of topics) and then use critical thinking skills to organize the sources according to relevance, and demonstrate relevance to the “real” world. In classes where I have full development autonomy, we don’t use a textbook at all. In my pre-designed courses, I modify the “discussion questions” (which are all pretty lame — course developers don’t have online teaching experience) to include more exploration and critical thinking. Thus we have “surprises” every week in all my courses. Students love it.

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