Do you like to be pushed outside your comfort zone? It can bring fear, confusion, frustration, with a lack of control that most people dread at first.
The first day of school in kindergarten comes to mind. I actually ran away from the kindergarten building and was chased down by the teacher. But for me, the memory that most sticks in my mind is learning how to ice skate as a 7-year-old. I was experiencing a whole new means of locomotion (gliding on skates) and my locus of control was about as unbalanced, at first, as I had ever felt.
As new innovations and technologies come to schools, educators are being pushed outside their comfort zones, too. For them, the new means of locomotion is fueled by today’s fast-evolving digital tools, from tablet computers to multimedia content to interactive virtual courses. The balancing act is figuring out which of these tools to use and how to use them.
At the same time, the educational technology companies that serve the K-12 market are being pushed outside their comfort zones. Consider the recent move by Blackboard Inc., which took a dramatic shift in strategy and product offerings when it purchased two companies built on the Moodle platform, the free learning-management system popular mostly because it is an alternative to Blackboard. (Seeabout the growing competition and uncertainty in the learning-management-system market.)
And just when ed-tech leaders might have been feeling they were beginning to find some balance, they are facing one of the biggest challenges in years: figuring out how to put the technologies in place that will be necessary to support schools’ use of common-core standards and assessments. How, in tight budget times, will they purchase the technology needed to put all assessments online? What impact will the move to the common core have on virtual education? And what types of technology needs to be in place to ensure teachers get the training they need to implement the common core? (Seeabout technology readiness for the common core.)
All this uncertainty surely triggers a very uncomfortable feeling. But the best response is to lace up the skates and stay in motion.
A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2012 edition of Digital Directions as Breaking Outside the Comfort Zone