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!


  1. This is a very interesting concept and one I've thought a lot about over the last couple of years.

    I certainly think that anybody who challenges the norm could be described as disruptive and when this leads to positive changes which improve learning for children then it's undoubtedly a good thing.

    I am, however, slightly cagey about the term 'disruptor'.

    The problem I have found with the term is that there are some education professionals, largely those who would label themselves 'academics', who in my opinion misuse the term. I know of many educators, who shall remain nameless, who deliberately challenge everything just for the sake of challenging it.

    While in principle this isn't a bad thing, there are so many examples of people evangelising the term and creating discussions where, simply because they themselves are being 'disruptive', they feel unable to be wrong.

    Sometimes you can challenge what has gone before and be wrong! Sometimes what is here now is good! Sometimes what you propose to improve it simply doesn't!

    I am perfectly happy to be a disruptor just as long as I don't become one of those 'disruptive educators' who refuse to be wrong. Which I won't. Obviously.

    1. I agree! Being a disruptor is great when it is coupled with 'positive' and 'reflective'.

      I have been criticized for my overly optimistic outlook. I cannot change - I will not change. We can all feel disheartened by the 'disruptive educators', but I don't for long, because I always learn something from them, even if it's just 'how I do not want to be'. I too hope that I never become the type of educator who cannot accept that someone else's idea is better, or that I am wrong!

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  3. What a great post Jill! I love the idea of being a positive disruptor and I think it is a great way of expressing what a lot of us do! We get our inspirations from many places, which can lead to extensions (scaling up) of ideas and concepts.

    The fact that I was inspired by Chris Mayoh to employ digital leaders and that he in turn is so positive about the extension of this idea through the digital leader network, shows what a positive thing scaling up is! With ICT moving at such a pace and schools largely having to fend for themselves, sustainable solutions need to be found. The ability to collaborate through twitter and other social networking tools is encouraging and I believe will ultimately have an impact on ICT progression in schools. I think we should be encouraging as many teachers as we can to use twitter for their CPD.

    Having a lot of positive disruptors working together on a project must surely mean that it will be successful – and if it includes formula one and McLaren – count me in!