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“Disrupting Class” and the Age of User-generated Content

Posted in Ed Tech on May 29, 2012 by

Group Work, SOLSTICE Centre, CETL, Edge Hill University
Photo by jisc_infonet on Flickr

Clayton Christensen’s “Disrupting Class” was one of our recent picks for the Knewton Book Club. 

I was really drawn to this quote in particular from Clayton Christensen’s “Disrupting Class:”

“Teachers, parents, and students, who previously could not develop or market these learning tools, will now be able to do these things. Rather than expecting that in one fell swoop computers will be in and textbooks out, the user-generated tools will be used independently as tutorial tools. For several years, most teachers and students will still have conventional textbooks. But little by little, textbooks will give way to computer-based online courses–increasingly augmented by user-generated student-centric learning tools. The second, or student-centric stage of this disruption will move to the mainstream when users and teachers start piecing together enough tool modules to create entire courses designed for each type of learner.”

In Knewton systems engineering, the department in which I work, the nature of the work is such that each of us becomes an expert in a part of the environment. “Domain expert” is just a fancy way of saying that you’re the go-to guy for that particular piece of technology, and everyone needs you to be able to answer questions. Some of these areas that require domain expertise include Amazon AWS, DNS, Kerberos, and Graphite. Since there’s always an infinite amount of work to be done, it’s best for the company and for each individual (who wants to grow in the profession) if everyone is teaching everyone else in the group their domain knowledge. This allows everyone to facilitate the growth of their colleagues’ knowledge and become exponentially more valuable to the company.

To get in the practice of educating each other constantly and being good custodians of our own knowledge, we’d like to be able to use our own tools in the future. Each of us domain experts would write our own content, power it with the Knewton Adaptive Learning PlatformTM, and teach each other what we know in our own course shell. This practice would give our company tremendous “surface area”–multiplying the number of people teaching others, so that more people are teaching and learning at any given point.

Just imagine how this would change organizational dynamics–and even the field of human resources in the future! Each employee would be valuable not only for what they can bring to the organization but for what they can help others bring to it. The mathematics of it get pretty exciting.