Overclocking Education Change
I enjoy listening to people, who build computers, and have a fascination for digital games. A recent conversation had me wondering if there are similarities to building education and learning change. Are we overclocking education transformation? I know that today, building computers talk is more like a foreign language than it was when my students did it in class. At that time, it was more of a snapping the parts in place to get something to happen. Today, it’s more complicated with many more things connected, which can result in many more things happening if the right parts are in the right places—and at the right times. So many more things can be interconnected, and it requires a masterful magician to conjure up the best fits for the most creative possibilities. While building a computer isn’t quite like building a new classroom environment, it had me thinking. Can we learn from similarities found in building computers and playing digital games as we attempt to transform education and learning? Are there parallels?
Much of the computer-building talk, today, is game related. Games require quick-running power and stamina to perform in an epic way, and at highest standards. Gaming machines need to be capable of sprinting digital marathons. Builders seek to outdo each other with what they know and can do by creatively modifying the use of the parts inside the boxes they construct. Building computers is a kind of competition—and it all takes place before the gaming even happens. It’s about speed and performance, and in the end no one is ever really completely satisfied, so the searching for better continues—and may be endless. It’s similar to education and change there.
If we continue to stretch this notion, parallels can be found in efforts to reform education by modifying the learning space without overclocking good education ideas and plans to do it. The process of overclocking a computer to get it to operate faster than the manufacturer intended is normal for PC builders working with hardware. Going faster can mean an increase in power consumption that usually generates more heat in the process. It can place more stress on the CPU and all its parts. Overclocking education usually results in the same—a great deal of heat and in many cases failure.
Certainly, educators and students are more than just parts in a school or classroom, and the end run for education is more than a game. In many ways, each day, educators and students are talked about as being just parts in a plan— in the game—rather than the necessary organizers, facilitators, and cornerstones for success. If in this computer building, educator and student game, the most important parts are not included in the solution, the game is lost, and things don’t change. In some ways, we are tempted to overclock education for the sake of a quick end result, forgetting the point of the game, as well as the cost on the participants in the game. Unlike gaming, there usually isn’t a safe and free do over for failing a level—any level. The heat build up when that happens can be extreme. There are plenty of examples of that. While everyone believes he or she understands what needs to be done, we should take a lesson out of the gaming, CPU building playbook, and creatively figure how to build a better learning space, while understanding that there’s always a next level. All of that requires gaming collaboration rather than gaming confrontation.
How do you avoid overclocking an education plan or idea?
At this time of year, or at any time, when new planning is happening—and after a foundational committee, or group, has been chosen and formed, it pays to ask for help and seek advice. Solitary ventures for change are too difficult. There are more places, today, dealing in the best possible solutions for schools and classrooms, that directly impact educators and students. Seeking out the best of those solutions, which also provide leadership through proven data-driven knowledge, assessment, and experience is essential. Those that offer the best chances to successfully change the learning space, teaching practices, student learning and achievement without overclocking those opportunities can only happen when you know more than you already know, and wonder what you’re missing, as well as finding new ways to get there. While building computers and playing digital games can be solitary experiences—it is the sharing of great planning and success that brings the acknowledgement and satisfaction that something has really been accomplished—and the true measure of success. In all, there is also great importance in remembering that in learning there is always a next level.
About the Author
Ken Royal is a former educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience. He has written at many of the major education publications, including District Administration, TechLearning, and Scholastic Administrator. Presently, Ken is a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter. 😀