Sunday, 11 March 2012

Positive Disruptors

In February, I was very fortunate to hear Professor Tim O'Riordan address an amazing group of students who were looking at how they could change the environmental impact of their schools and communities. He made reference to the term 'positive disruptors', and encouraged them to be just that.
Now, I'm very aware that this is not a new term, but it was the first time I had heard it, and it got me thinking. Am I a positive disruptor? Are the teachers involved in the Norfolk Cloud Educator Programme all postitve disruptors? Are all the people invited to be part of the Google Teacher Academy positive disruptors?
Am I a positive disruptor? I'm curious to know what people's opinions are on this subject.
At the moment, I think a positive disruptor is somebody who comes up with a solution to a problem in a way that has not been done before - and crucially has a positive impact. I'm sure we have all experienced disruptors, and know that not all of them are positive!
I came across a blog by Christa in New York and found it an interesting starting point.
1.) Figure out what you want to disrupt, meaning what do you want to fix.
2.) Discover the clichés in your chosen area.
3.) Bust up every cliché in your area.
4.) Now scale.
You never know what it will inspire in others.
While Christa discusses these in terms of her own focus, parts could be translated easily into the world of education.
Back in 2010, Norfolk procured Google Apps for Education to replace our previous email system. It didn't take long to realise that Google Apps held the potential to offer our schools a viable alternative to a Learning Platform, particularly as the County provided platform contract was coming to an end.
Many people predicted that we would not be allowed to deploy Google Apps across the county due to data protection issues and perceived e-Safety concerns. Having explored all possible options, it came down to something very simple - a risk register. Did the benefits out weigh the risks? And, just how 'real' were the possible risks? The overwhelming answer was that the benefits won hands down!
The positive disruption of attempting to move and change the ethos of Norfolk Schools to thinking about working in the cloud is going to be a long, slow process, but one that I feel will be worth every second.
The recent work by Chris Mayoh (@chrismayo) and Vicki Cox (@vickit23) in Bradford with their Digital Leader Project has been a real inspiration to many, many teachers and is having an amazing impact on the pupils and schools involved. I believe that this is a great example of some positive disruptors at work. I know many others have similar projects, but it was this one that has inspired one of our wonderful ASTs in Norfolk, Sheli Blackburn (@SheliBB), to develop the concept even further.
Sheli is now working on developing a Digital Leaders Network, where pupils in different schools who are Digital Leaders can link up and support each other. Through Twitter contacts, many others are supporting Sheli in her Digital Leader quest.
Sheli, Chris and many, many others have been great positive disruptors in their own schools. The difference now is that through things like Twitter and Blogs, teachers now have the ability to share their ideas and thoughts and 'scale up' in a way never previously possible.
The generosity of those involved, not only in sharing ideas, but also actively supporting those who develop their ideas further, is amazing to watch and even more amazing to be a part of.
A chance remark at the end of my first (very enjoyable) experience of Geocaching during a session at NAACE on Saturday run by James Langley, @lordlangley73, might just lead to an amazingly exciting project linking schools, counties, countries and Formula 1. Even if the idea does not develop into a viable project, it shows to me that there are plenty of educators out there willing and able to be positive disruptors. 
There always have been positive disruptors. The difference now is that we have access to tools that enable us to share those ideas, develop and build on them around the world. This is such an exciting time to be in education - no matter what else may be going on!